Summit residents weigh in on Broad Street West

Photo by Liv Meier
Summit residents scrutinize the latest plans for the Broad Street West redevelopment project at a Feb. 11 public forum.

SUMMIT, NJ — Residents cast votes for the types of businesses they want included in the redevelopment of the city’s Broad Street West project at a public forum on Feb. 11, and the city planner noted construction could begin as early as next spring.

The redevelopment area, designated as an “area in need of redevelopment” in September 2017 by the Common Council, contains 16 lots, a little more than 10 acres of privately owned land and 6 acres of city property between Maple Street and Springfield Avenue. The area includes City Hall, the city’s library, firehouse and post office, a 125-unit senior housing complex managed by the Summit Housing Authority and the local YMCA. Currently, the firehouse is the only structure set to be rebuilt in another location; the library, YMCA, post office, City Hall and housing complex will not be moved.

Preliminary plans put forth for the redevelopment area included commercial, residential and multi-use parking facilities. Residents at the forum offered their thoughts on proposed tenants, such as a small grocery store, an axe-throwing bar and movie theater.

One concern of residents at the forum was parking and the traffic that already impacts the Hilltop City. But according to Annie Hindenlang, a director for Topology, Summit’s redevelopment planner, all 262 existing parking spaces must be retained with the development, and she emphasized the possible addition of multiuse parking facilities, which would greatly increase parking options.

“If you have an acre of land, you can only fit so many spaces on it,” she said. “But, if you build up, you can quadruple that number.”
Hindenlang later added, “Most parking lots have been there for a while and sometimes they weren’t carefully thought of,” and that “some aren’t really safe for anyone.”

Privately owned businesses that are also part of the existing area include Belle Faire Cleaners, Reincarnation Salon, 7-Eleven, the Bradley, Brough & Dangler Funeral Home and its driveway, medical offices and Otterstedt Insurance.
Hindenlang said the 7-Eleven owner has expressed interest in being reincorporated into the redevelopment, which would require approval from the company’s corporate headquarters since he is a franchisee.

The city would not be involved in any of the reincorporation of any privately owned businesses, according to Hindenlang. That would be directly between the developer and business owner.

Hindenlang also said other concerns expressed by residents and stakeholders varied based on the groups surveyed. For example, Summit High School students expressed the need for more hangout space, whereas property owners are interested in better pedestrian connections to the train station and downtown area.

She also said a connection to the Village Green from the redevelopment area would be plausible and that both the YMCA and library are viewed as assets to the project.

Common Council President David Naidu responded to questions regarding the impact on property taxes, saying he expects the development to increase ratables overall.

“We’re actually looking to reduce residential property taxes,” he added.
Some residents were concerned about which zone the new residential units would fall under, with regard to public school assignments, because the area is mostly zoned for business and commercial use.

Hindenlang said it was too early in the planning process to tell what impact the development will have on the school system, adding that, “one of the great things about redevelopment is that it gives the city an opportunity to think about certain issues comprehensively, like certain impacts and improvements.”

The redevelopment plan is slated to reach Summit’s Planning Board in April for approval of its consistency with the city’s master plan, according to Hindenlang.

She said public outreach will continue throughout the process.