professionalplanning

DMR Impact Study and Conceptual Design of Reimagined George Street Reviewed by New Brunswick Mayor & Council

DMR Impact Study and Conceptual Design of Reimagined George Street Reviewed by New Brunswick Mayor & Council 789 444 DMR Architects

Responding to the desire for continued outdoor dining and experiences, New Brunswick’s mayor and council reviewed an impact study and design concepts for a reimagined George Street at their January 17 meeting.

One of the design options is for the conversion of George Street, between Bayard and Albany Streets, to become a pedestrian only mall that features year-round activation including outdoor dining, performance spaces and winter festivals.

The closure of the three-block area was first explored during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for its restaurants to safely stay open, which then morphed into a lively area that also hosted art shows, football watch parties and live music.

“We’re seeing a lot of municipalities exploring ways to encourage public gathering in ways that are reflective of their culture while supporting economic growth and sustainability,” said Francis Reiner.  “In New Brunswick, we provided four options including a no-build which would keep the existing, summer only closure, one-way traffic conversions for either vehicles only or buses only, and a complete closure to convert the area into a permanent pedestrian plaza.”

As part of the assignment, DMR studied how these options would impact traffic on nearby streets, emergency vehicle access, public transportation routes for NJ TRANSIT and Rutgers University buses, as well as parking, wayfinding, and trash and recycling pickup.

The plans could provide for a central 24 ft. wide spine, which includes outdoor seating and temporary Tivoli lighting during the spring, summer and fall months and year-round programming.

Diverse Professional Planning Services For 15 Municipalities Demonstrate DMR’s Robust Specialties

Diverse Professional Planning Services For 15 Municipalities Demonstrate DMR’s Robust Specialties 789 444 DMR Architects

DMR is serving more than 15 New Jersey municipalities offering a full complement of professional planning services, including consulting on affordable housing, cannabis zoning, sustainability, major redevelopment projects, and landscape design. The roster of work tells the story of a depth of capabilities and the cohesive planning services DMR provides.

In Verona, DMR was first contracted as its affordable housing planner, beginning a process that ultimately reduced the township’s affordable housing obligation and set into motion a plan for the town to satisfy it. That experience soon led to coming on as the borough planner and completing an analysis of the township’s master plan to confirm that DMR’s future goals aligned with the document. The analysis resulted in recommendations that would improve the town center and rezone two sites totaling almost 20 acres.

In Dunellen, DMR continues to consult on redevelopment, master planning, affordable housing, zoning and climate resiliency, with an underlying theme of focusing on engaging the small, but active, town. Hundreds of members have weighed in on surveys or at public meetings, arriving at a number of meaningful implementations including: the Downtown Vision Plan, the Master Plan Reexamination, the Cannabis Business Public Survey, the Climate Resiliency Plan, zoning changes and new retail opportunities.

A project in Woodcliff Lake is highlighting DMR’s landscape design capabilities, calling for a park that would profoundly change the surrounding neighborhood and in New Brunswick, the mayor and council are considering a similarly dramatic change to George Street.

15+ more investigation studies, redevelopment plans, master plans or consulting projects are ongoing in diverse municipalities including Atlantic Highlands, Chatham, Hackensack, Middletown, North Arlington, Nutley, Paramus, Ridgefield and Rutherford.

Prospect Park Becomes First NJ Municipality to Adopt Community Energy Plan

Prospect Park Becomes First NJ Municipality to Adopt Community Energy Plan 789 444 DMR Architects

Prospect Park in Passaic County has become the first municipality to adopt a Community Energy Plan under the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) and Sustainable Jersey Clean Energy Grant Program, an effort to align with The State’s Energy Master Plan, the roadmap to reaching Governor Murphy’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

The borough used its $25,000 grant to retain DMR to prepare the plan, which identifies more than two dozen initiatives that Prospect Park will implement within a five-year period, including:

  • Installing renewable energy sources, energy storage, and public EV charging stations on municipal properties, and improving energy efficiency of municipal buildings;
  • Creating opportunities for community solar programs that allow the public to purchase solar energy from off-site sources, with an emphasis on availability and affordability for low- and moderate-income households;
  • Outreach campaigns to increase resident and business participation in incentive programs offered by the state, federal government and utilities like PSE&G to transition to electric vehicles, make energy efficient improvements and install solar and other forms of renewable energy;
  • Replace older borough fleet vehicles with newer, preferably electric alternatives, and adopt fuel efficient fleet vehicle management practices;
  • Make energy planning inclusive of low- and moderate-income and non-English speaking households;
  • Adopt zoning and regulatory language that permits renewable energy production and energy storage.

“We applaud Mayor Khairullah and the Prospect Park council for recognizing the role that reducing carbon-based energy sources plays in the overall health and wellbeing of everyone who lives and works in Prospect Park,” said Tracey Woods, Energy Program Manager for Sustainable Jersey. “Their commitment to change shows that any municipality can address climate change in a meaningful way.”

“This is the next step for us toward making more clean energy sources available and reducing GHG emissions,” said Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah.  “We had a public reading of the plan earlier this month and there was overwhelming support from our residents and businesses.”

“There are state-level grants, tax credits from the Federal Inflation Reduction Act, and incentives through utility companies available right now making it the ideal time for municipalities to create Community Energy Plans,” said Daniel Hauben, PP, AICP, LEED Green Associate. “As planners committed to building healthier and more affordable communities, our team at DMR is equipped to guide our municipal clients through the resources that are available to them now.”

In June 2022 NJBPU approved $820,000 in grants to 46 municipalities to create Community Energy Plans to combat climate change.  Prospect Park was one of only 24 designated as overburdened and eligible for $25,000.

Hillsdale Plan Reflects Collaboration Between Residents and Elected Officials

Hillsdale Plan Reflects Collaboration Between Residents and Elected Officials 789 444 DMR Architects

The Hillsdale council recently approved the Patterson Street Redevelopment Plan for the former Waste Management site following over two years of collaboration between the public officials and residents of the community.

The redevelopment plan for the almost 12 acres known as the Patterson Street Redevelopment Plan was written in consultation with DMR Architects and includes a requirement for the developer to provide approximately 5,000 square feet of community space within the project.  The redevelopment plan allows for residential rentals to represent a significant portion of the overall area with 255 residential units of which 20 will be affordable housing.  It also requires a new public park located at the corner of Patterson Street and Piermont Avenue.

“These facilities will provide meaningful gathering spaces for meetings, sports, and recreation, improving everyone’s quality of life as well as increasing their property values,” said Janetta Trochimiuk, Council President. “The redevelopment zone was established in 2019 and encompasses 12 acres of underutilized industrial land at Knickerbocker Ave., Brookside Place, Piermont Ave. and Prospect Place.”

“Resident engagement is a critical component to municipal planning. It provides insights on what the community needs are and how redevelopment of underutilized properties can solve affordable housing requisites and also provide alternative market rate housing,” said Francis Reiner, PP, LLA.  “We are working with municipal leaders throughout New Jersey to create customized protocols for requesting and collecting feedback and refashioning plans that make everyone feel heard.”

A partnership between Claremont Development and March Development of Morristown has been chosen as the developer of the site.

Transformational Municipal Park Planned for Woodcliff Lake

Transformational Municipal Park Planned for Woodcliff Lake 789 444 DMR Architects

A $500,000 grant from Bergen County and two anonymous donations totaling $1 million – $750,000 from a private person and $250,000 from a local corporation – have given a strong start to the construction of a park in Woodcliff Lake that is unlike any in New Jersey and will transform how residents interact with its downtown.

Previously home to the Galaxy Gardens Nursery, the municipality acquired the site at the intersection of Werimus Road and Woodcliff Lake Avenue in 2018. By connecting the two-acre parcel to the Westervelt-Lydecker House and the municipal pool and athletic fields, DMR’s designs for the site creates a recreation, cultural and civic corridor featuring a passive great lawn, water feature, dog park, picnic areas, pergolas for shaded seating, a playground, as well as an amphitheater with a stage for concerts and other public venues.  Other elements of the municipal park include walking paths with an approximately quarter mile loop, lighting, and landscaping.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to provide our residents with a central gathering place in our Borough,” said Mayor Carlos Rendo.  “Woodcliff Lake’s history, athletics, entertainment, and outdoor living will all come together in one place, creating a community asset that will be unique to our extraordinary community.”

“We only get to do this once, and by patiently reviewing a wide array of concepts and then meticulously planning this use, we’ve arrived at something we can all be proud of – and something that already has drawn spectacular support from the private sector. The construction of this park will provide an integrated home to the resources and activities in Woodcliff Lake that not only will serve and delight our residents but become a focal point for the arts and sports communities in Bergen County,” said Council President Jacqueline Gadaleta.

“Meaningful and vibrant outdoor spaces like this one are essential to residents’ health and quality of life and will have a positive impact on the community for generations,” said Francis
Reiner, PP, LLA. “DMR has a long history of designing green spaces that have profoundly transformed the surrounding neighborhoods and how they are used. The design of this park is one of the more unique opportunities we have been involved with and we are excited to be part of such an important project with the Borough and its residents.”

“We want to congratulate Woodcliff Lake on creating a productive collaboration with a broad array of constituencies and stakeholders to arrive at this wonderful plan,” says County Executive James Tedesco. “Woodcliff Lake has found impassioned and motivated partners, including Bergen County for a project that will be a benefit to everyone.”

The borough continues to seek corporate and foundation donors for the $3.7 million project and is offering individual and family sponsorship opportunities that will be commemorated in the park.  Woodcliff Lake collects between $210K and $225K per year through its open space tax which will go toward paying off any potential bond for the project.

Achievements in Downtown Economic Development Recognized

Achievements in Downtown Economic Development Recognized 1644 925 DMR Architects

Downtown New Jersey announced the winners of their Excellence Awards, which recognizes projects, programs and individuals for their impact on downtown economic development. This year, two friends and clients of DMR will be among the honorees, including:

Mayor John P. Labrosse, Jr., City of Hackensack

Individual of Excellence – Public Official

Since 2011, the City of Hackensack has undergone a tremendous renaissance, illustrated by more than $1 billion in private investment, 4,000 new residential units, with another 2,000 on the boards, and many sophisticated infrastructure, outdoor space, zoning, funding, and connectivity efforts. This level of success would not have been possible without the clear vision and dedication of Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse. During his nearly ten-year tenure as mayor, John Labrosse has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to the redevelopment of downtown Hackensack. Elected to the Hackensack city council in 2009 and becoming mayor in 2013 when the city’s redevelopment efforts were in its infancy, Mayor Labrosse has remained the City’s elected leader through its most significant stages of redevelopment.

“The remarkable redevelopment success in Hackensack would simply not have been possible without the clear vision and commitment of the city’s municipal team, led by Mayor John Labrosse,” said Francis Reiner, PP, LLA. “All you have to do is look around Main Street: the rising buildings, attractive streets, art, culture and overall vitality are all due to his unparalleled dedication.”

Borough of Dunellen Pop-Up Park

Honorable Mention for Excellence in Placemaking

In the summer of 2021, the Borough of Dunellen implemented the first of several community revitalization and placemaking efforts of the mile-square borough – a pop-up park located along the main commercial corridor of North Avenue. Reflecting the importance of public space and placemaking initiatives, the low-cost, high-impact project brought to life an under-utilized parking lot in the heart of the downtown. Located near businesses, the train station, and Borough Hall, the temporary place provided space for residents and visitors to sit, relax, engage with their community and take part in special programming, such as yoga classes, musical performances, Coffee with a Cop, and programming in support of the arts, the library and local businesses. Through community support and corporate sponsors, the Dunellen Pop-Up Park engaged hundreds of residents and visitors and more than 15 local businesses and organizations.

“Through the pop-up park, hundreds of residents and visitors who may not have otherwise spent time downtown last summer were able to connect with neighbors, businesses, and organizations; and most importantly, experience the great downtown atmosphere of Dunellen. The project was made that much more special because of the heart of Dunellen, our community of volunteers, who brought this project to life,” said Mayor Jason Cilento.

For more information on the other award winners or the May 24 award ceremony, please visit the Downtown New Jersey website.

River Park Town Center to Transform 88 Acres into First Walkable Downtown

River Park Town Center to Transform 88 Acres into First Walkable Downtown 789 444 DMR Architects

Construction has begun on the first phase to transform 88 acres in the Whippany area of Hanover Township into the DMR Architects-designed River Park Town Center, a downtown destination featuring 967 residential units, 80,000 SF of retail, two 125-room extended stay hotels, an outdoor amphitheater, and the completion of the Patriot Trail along the Whippany River. The first phase includes the construction of building one of eleven, and will offer 81 residential units, a pool, a fitness center and community amenities.

DMR’s plans for the first town center in Hanover Township’s 220+ year history will completely transform the way that people and businesses interface with the area that is currently largely populated by corporate office campuses.

“The creative challenge in Hanover was to design something that served a lot of functions that are completely new here while still preserving the community character and existing physical and natural landscaping,” said Francis Reiner, PP, LLA.  “This is a great example of pro-active municipal planning and placemaking and the successful collaboration of a municipality, developer, planners and architects. This project will promote smart growth with elements that will appeal to residents, shoppers, employers and their staffs.”

When completed, River Park Town Center will also feature more than 20 acres of public recreation space including an amphitheater and park, generous convocation areas for community engagement, and deck, curbside and surface lot parking options. More than 40% of the land will be left in its natural state.

Atlantic Street Park and the author's photo.

Successful Municipal Planning for a Clear Vision of the Future

Successful Municipal Planning for a Clear Vision of the Future 2560 1450 DMR Architects

By John Labrosse, Mayor, Hackensack and Francis Reiner

The City of Hackensack is in the midst of a renaissance.  Over the past ten years, under the leadership of Mayor John Labrosse, Jr., the City has taken tremendous steps with the adoption and realization of a comprehensive plan which provides a clear vision for the transformation of the downtown into a mixed use, pedestrian friendly environment.  Fran Reiner, Partner at DMR Architects which has been the City’s redevelopment and planning consultant since 2010, worked with Mayor Labrosse and the city’s leadership team under its Director of Redevelopment Albert Dib to author the 2012 Downtown Rehabilitation Plan which implemented the strategies for the City’s rebirth.

A key component to the success of the plan has been the public outreach through on-going meetings as well as symposiums to the engage the community, developers, contracted partners, civic leaders and key stakeholders in an on-going conversation regarding the City’s goals and objectives.

Timely results

In only a short period of time since the adoption of the plan, the City has already begun to see the benefits of these strategies.  Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino’s work over the past six years with developers to reinvent blighted properties through the adoption of PILOT programs, resulting in more than 2,500 units are under construction within and surrounding the Main Street downtown district.  It has been a catalyst for a wave of additional development and improvements within the downtown including the completion of a supermarket, the renovation of a farmers’ market, the opening of the Performing Arts Center and the Atlantic Street Park.

The comprehensiveness strategy has allowed the City to be proactive in its approach to redevelopment and set itself up to attract and support future development.


The Plan, which was adopted in 2012, promotes:

  •  Smart growth principles by creating zoning which increases development flexibility, reduces parking ratios and promotes mixed-use, pedestrian friendly development in the downtown;
  • The creation of public parks, plazas and open spaces with an emphasis on community gathering and includes the construction of a performing arts and community center;
  • Connectivity to existing public infrastructure, including the two NJ Transit Rail Stations, the NJ Transit Regional Bus Station and Routes 4, 17, 46, Interstate 80 and the Garden State Parkway;
  • A mixture of uses with a variety of residential housing options to encourage walkability and active streetscapes;
  • Redevelopment and rehabilitation through architectural, neighborhood design standards that ensure high quality development;
  • The implementation of a two-way street system; and
  • Strategies which include municipal tools and mechanisms to promote revitalization.

At the heart of the plan are projects to revive the Main Street area into the nexus of this livable, walkable downtown district.  Clear pedestrian and vehicular circulation and ample convenient parking are vital to attracting developers and ultimately residents and businesses.  Hackensack is in the process of converting Main and State Streets back to two-way and completing a comprehensive streetscape installation which includes traffic signals, new sidewalks and curbs, and handicap ramps which create a safe environment for pedestrians and drivers within the downtown.

In 2020, the City completed a Master Plan which outlines the City’s goals and objectives over the next 10 years.  The plan outlines a strategy for job growth and business development to support the revitalization efforts within the downtown.  These strategies include the creation of a life science zone located between the downtown and the Hackensack Meridian Health campus.  The plan seeks to promote lower density housing options between the downtown and the hospital with a new townhome district for empty nesters and retirees looking to downsize but stay in the City.  In addition, the City recently adopted overlay zones that require the inclusion of affordable housing as a proactive approach for the pending fourth round affordable housing requirements that are scheduled for 2025.

Green priorities

Hackensack made the creation of open green spaces a priority, with all development projects requiring public plazas, parks, and walking trails to connect them to the rest of the city.  In 2011, one of Hackensack’s first redevelopment projects was the conversion of an existing parking lot into Atlantic Street Park funded by a $265,000 Bergen County Open Air Grant.  Its benches and outdoor covered areas bring people out of their offices at lunchtime, and its outdoor performing area supports cultural entertainment throughout warmer months.

The plan has also attracted projects to expand the walkable downtown area.  The Record Site at the east end of the city, dormant for more than a decade, is in the early stages of a redevelopment plan that will bring 700 new rental apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail with green spaces interspersed throughout the nearly 17-acre community and—most-notably—connect Main Street for the first time with a newly created Hackensack Riverfront District.  There are also plans for a schematic design through construction documentation for a proposed sports facility and boat launch.  In the center of the downtown, there are plans to turn an area near Main Street into a public park with a pedestrian paseo that will be closed on weeknights and weekends for festivals and community events, creating a significant public park.

Performing arts and entertainment

Cultural, performing and culinary are vital for economic sustainability in any municipality.  Hackensack converted a Masonic Temple adjacent to Atlantic Street Park into a 225-seat performing arts space for performances that range from singer Marc Cohn and Defining Moments Theater Company’s In the Heights and The 25th Annual Spelling Bee as well as local performances like Cabaret by the Hackensack High School Drama Club and Still/Moving a dance performance by local choreographers Bergen Dance Makers.

While outdoor space and entertainment options are good for the soul, providing opportunities for community sports and fitness and gathering are just as important for attracting new and keeping long-term residents.  The city invested in its senior center as well as upgrading the existing 8,000 square feet and an additional 14,000 square feet at its M&M Recreation Center into a basketball arena that is also used for volleyball and baseball hitting cages, indoor soccer, and a new senior center.

The 2012 redevelopment plan provided a blueprint for Hackensack and developers to work together to meet their shared goals and set the city up to continue its growth trajectory.  The city recently completed the Hackensack Life Science Zone Assessment Report to identify Federal Opportunity Zones, a designation that will attract new private investment and job creation.

The key for Hackensack and for any municipality that is seeking to revitalize its downtown or Main Street area is to be proactive in its approach to revitalization.  It’s crucial for municipalities to first understand the goals and objectives of the community and its residents through an inclusive public outreach process and then to develop a comprehensive plan that will guide all future decisions, an approach that has allowed Hackensack to dictate the type and pattern of development that appeals to residents who are new to the city as well as those who are life-long residents.

Redevelopment Summit Celebrates Milestones and Sets Vision

Redevelopment Summit Celebrates Milestones and Sets Vision 789 444 DMR Architects

Elected Officials and leaders from the public and private sectors including Hackensack’s Mayor John P. LaBrosse, Jr., Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino and representatives from Hekemian & Company Inc., Russo Development, HornRock Properties, Claremont Companies, Heritage Capital, Waypoint Residential, Lighthouse Living, and DMR Architects celebrated Hackensack’s revitalization accomplishments and set a vision for its future at the recent Hackensack Redevelopment Summit.

At the event, hosted by the City of Hackensack and the Performing Arts Center, developers were invited to continue to fulfill the vision outlined in the City of Hackensack’s Downtown Rehabilitation Plan, which includes improvements to transportation alternatives, parks and open spaces, retail, restaurants and biosciences.

“The success of the City’s revitalization efforts is based on the public and private sector’s ability to work together to create a vibrant mixed-use downtown,” Francis Reiner, PP, LLA stated.  “This was an opportunity for the City, and its partners to set new goals and a vision for the next eight to 10 years.”

The transformation of the City of Hackensack, which began in 2012 with the conversion of an underutilized parking lot into the Atlantic Street Park and the construction of adjacent Performing Arts Center, has advanced to include more than 20 redevelopment plans with more than 3,000 residential units with an estimated half billion dollars of private investments within and surrounding the downtown.

The City continues to implement its visions with the conversion of Main Street back to two way, which is set to be completed by the end of summer 2019.  These improvements will include new streetscape to go along with opening of several mixed-use projects on Main Street.

“The ideas that were set forth at the Summit by the City and the developers will help shape the future for the City,” Reiner stated.

Projects like Heritage Capitals conversion of the former Bank of America Building, Russo Developments redevelopment of the former Record Site, HornRock/Russo’s redevelopment of Lot C adjacent to Foschini Park, as well as Claremont Companiesand Waypoint Residentials projects on Main Street represent the next group of developments that are under construction to offer downtown living within the City.

 

East Brunswick Route 18 Redevelopment

East Brunswick Route 18 Redevelopment Moves Forward

East Brunswick Route 18 Redevelopment Moves Forward 789 444 DMR Architects

The redevelopment of one of New Jersey’s busiest commercial corridors, Route 18 in East Brunswick, is underway, with the latest step forward coming in the form of two RFPs to developers.

Last summer, the East Brunswick Redevelopment Agency retained DMR to develop several redevelopment plans on numerous tracts of land within the Township.

On one of those tracts, 88 acres that includes the Route 18 shopping center and Loehmanns Plaza, DMR developed a redevelopment plan that will bring these lots, all currently under performing or vacant, to life. Despite traffic of more 100,000 cars daily, Route 18 has one of the highest vacancy rates in the State, a challenge that the Township needed to address among other issues including a lack of a downtown center, a growing suburban population and a high volume of commuters who travel to the Township on their way to New York City.

As part of this effort, DMR developed multiple concept plans which called for a town center, including 95,000 SF of retail, 700 units of residential, 62,000 SF of office space, and a parking structure. The plan also includes a hotel, a boulevard and open space.

The RFPs to developers, released last week, are an important step toward implementing needed change.

“We are so excited to welcome a developer to our dedicated team of professionals who are pushing forward our 2020 Vision,” Mayor Brad Cohen said, “Located at the center of the State and close to Rutgers, every major highway and the shore, we are hopeful this project will attract significant interest from the development community.