Cranford DMC welcomes new director, unveils five-year plan

Photo by Jenny Goldberg
Kathleen Prunty, front with the microphone, steps down as Cranford’s DMC director after 21 years at the Feb. 22 meeting but not before introducing a presentation that unveiled a five-year plan for the township’s downtown.

CRANFORD, NJ — A five-year plan for the center of town that envisions bike lanes, a cultural arts committee and parking expansion was unveiled to residents at the Downtown Management Corporation meeting Feb. 22.

Anthony Durante of the DMC’s Strategic Planning Committee led the presentation, which detailed four major goals: the promotion of a vibrant downtown, the prioritization of safe and accessible mobility, parking, and empowering the local government to proactively plan for the future.

These goals were further broken down based on how long it will take to achieve various short-term, mid-term and long-term objectives.
“The plan covers a range of topics — beautification, maintenance, events, marketing, parking, development, public open space,” Durante said. “It is really a kind of holistic plan that focuses on a variety of areas as opposed to a particular one.”

After Durante described the DMC vision, he asked residents to participate by placing red and green stickers on posters throughout the room representing the different objectives, with a green sticker expressing approval and a red one disapproval.

Those not in attendance were asked to use a social media survey to vote on the ideas, Durante explained.

“From there, the DMC will make modifications,” he said.
Some residents expecting to comment at the end of the presentation were disappointed that they didn’t have the opportunity to publicly address the DMC.

“We can’t ask any questions,” one resident shouted out.
Durante responded that members of the DMC would later be walking around the meeting and available for questions.

Among the attendees were the owners of Carmen’s Foreign Car Repair and All About Me Salon & Day Spa, who last month revolted when they discovered their businesses had been included in a township-funded study that suggested 18 properties in a nearly 4-acre area be declared an “in need of redevelopment.”

The study, presented by Michael Mistretta of Harbor Consultants at a January Cranford Planning Board meeting, in essence suggested the the area be declared blighted — including the properties occupied by the various viable businesses — and recommended using eminent domain to spur redevelopment.

About two weeks after Mistretta’s presentation, the Cranford Township Committee removed all privately owned businesses from the study.
“The recent issue is a bump in the road and not a threshold issue. It is one for the township committee,” DMC Director Gabe Bailer told LocalSource.

Bailer, who replaced Kathleen Prunty, was appointed as the new director at the Feb. 13 township committee meeting.
Prunty served almost 21 years.

“I decided early in 2017 that I would step down at the end of the year, but that was pushed back to this month to allow the DMC board and township to find the right person,” Prunty told LocalSource in a Feb. 14 email. “I enthusiastically welcome the new director, Gabe Bailer, as well as the many new DMC board members.”

The DMC is a municipal department made up of three professional full-time staffers and an 11-member board appointed by the township committee. Strictly an advisory board, the DMC can make certain recommendations to the committee, but does not have the power to deny or approve contracts or applications. The board consists of four residents, three business owners, three property owners and Cranford Commissioner Jean-Albert Maisonneuve.