HIGHLAND PARK – The Streetscape Project, which will implement improvements between Second and Fifth avenues in Highland Park, begins today.
“This has been five to seven years in the making,” Highland Park Councilman Padraic Millet told about 50 people who gathered at The Meeting Point in the borough last week for the project update and to honor Main Street Highland Park (MSHP) volunteers.
Streetscape involves replacing the sidewalks between the curb and the storefronts in the three blocks, planting about 60 trees, installing rain gardens or greenery, bike racks, flag poles, trash receptacles and “living rooms,” which will feature two benches, a table and lamp at selected intersections.
The equipment will be moved into the borough today and work is expected to begin Wednesday, Millet said.
“You will have a finished look and it will invite people to hang out,” he said of the project, which is being overseen by ConQuest out of Westwood.
After reviewing the drawings, Roz Beberman, a Highland Park resident, said “I like the concept of having a place to sit. It pulls the town together.”
Replacement of the sidewalks will begin on the north side of Fifth Avenue and workers will move south to Second Avenue. The sidewalk work is expected to take six to eight weeks. The entire project should be completed by late fall. The project is estimated to cost $2.2 million and is being funded by state and federal grants and a zero-interest loan secured by MSHP.
Millet said the ConQuest project manager wants to complete the work with very little disruption to the businesses.
“He gets it. He understands that the businesses have to be accessible. He will make sure there’s a safe walking path,” he said. Business owners between Second and Fifth avenues can expect to have their walkways disrupted for part of two days during the project.
James McCrone, executive director of MSHP, the non-profit that promotes the businesses along Raritan Avenue, praised the borough’s stakeholders for making Streetscape a reality.
“This couldn’t have happened without the volunteers and government working together. This will make Highland Park more attractive,” he said.
While McCrone praised the volunteers for their passion for Streetscape, he also recognized them for their commitment to MSHP.
“The volunteers are the life blood of this organization and we want to pause for those who have done exemplary service,” McCrone said before handing out certificates to the honorees.
The following volunteers were recognized:
- Marsha Goldberg and Coleen Tyler for the Window Art project
- Ira Grassgreen and Meredith Carmen for Planting Day
- Andrea Baay and Anne Betterton for Race in the Park, the Highland Park 5K
- Jenni Chapman for Random Acts of Fun
- Sheila Highsmith for the Random Acts of Fun Fashion Show
After McCrone honored the volunteers, he was recognized for leading MSHP.
McCrone is taking a reduction of duties for about 10 months because his wife, Lisa L. Miller, obtained a visiting fellowship at All Soul’s College, Oxford University, England. Miller is a professor of political science at Rutgers University. Their two youngest children, Annie, 14, and Jake, 11, will be moving with them. McCrone will be working with MSHP as a consultant on a limited basis while he’s away.
“We are very privileged to have someone who is committed. This is an opportunity to wish him a successful, happy time and we will surely miss you,” Walter Deutsch, chairman of the MSHP board of directors, said to McCrone, finished up on Friday.
Former board member Paul Lanaris becomes the acting executive director today. He was introduced to the attendees.
“It takes a village to run this organization. We will implement what you want to do and I look forward to your suggestions,” Lanaris said.
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