Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Main Street Revitalization Study

Click Here to Download a Copy of the Main Street Revitalization Study - Special thanks to Fred Carr, the Matawan Borough Administrator, for providing an easy-to-read copy.

It’s not Harry Potter but the Main Street Revitalization Study is a pretty good read. Its author, the Beacon Planning and Consulting Services, draws a detailed picture of Matawan, its environs, and Main Street. Chock full of details, the study explains why the business district has failed and what remedies the borough can take. That Mayor Aufseeser has chosen to ignore this taxpayer funded study is, frankly, bizarre.

The study, admittedly, has certain shortcomings. The initial portion was written prior to the 2006 Census estimate and never updated. Possible traffic congestion from a revitalized downtown is never discussed. Nor are there any cost estimates for the suggested remedies. I would have also preferred more demographic information, such as age of the population, education, and ethnic makeup. But these are minor complaints.

Some interesting facts:

  • The Aberdeen-Matawan train station has 3000 daily passengers.
  • C-Town is the only retail establishment larger than 85’ by 85’
  • The Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services category has the second highest number of establishments (after retail) and the largest payroll.
The problems are:

Missing Anchor – An anchor is defined as any establishment that attracts other establishments to open nearby in hope to profit from the foot traffic. Not only doesn’t Main St. have an anchor, there’s a question where one could even fit. Lot sizes are small and parking is limited.

Shopping Experience – Retail locations are interspersed among offices and private residences. The ideal shopping experience is an uninterrupted strip of stores.

Character – Main St. has no common element that defines its character. The downtown lacks a marketable theme. Each commercial building was built without regard for the look of the neighborhood. There’s no common signage, even on the same building. The types of stores don’t complement each other.

Parking – The limited parking is incapable of handling a significant influx of retail establishments or a large-scale anchor store.

The remedies range from the simple and cheap to the complex and expensive. Some of the simple remedies are:

Zoning – Zone all properties in the business district to require the ground floor be used only for retail. Existing properties can be grandfathered.

Signage – Require all banners and signs to conform to a common theme.

Parking – Draw lined parking so that vehicles don’t take more than one space. Also, enforce time limit rules to increase vehicular turnover.

Pedestrian Friendly – Have the sidewalks be of uniform size and design. Build curb extensions at crosswalks to calm traffic and shorten the pedestrian crossing distance. Replace the cobra head lighting with lighting more suitable for a retail district. Create attractive resting areas with shading and benches.

Store Hours – Have a policy to regularize store hours along Main St.

The complex and expensive are anchor and theme. On this point, the study is purposefully vague since these are political issues. Also, Matawan is severely restricted due to its size and limited resources (a problem, I believe, that would be alleviated by merging Matawan with Aberdeen).

My suggestion would be the construction of a cultural/music hall with an art studio in the front lobby. Regarding a theme, I would recommend a colonial motif with street lighting that’s reminiscent of the old gas lamps.

Financing is a bit tricky. The study advises the creation of a Special Improvement District (SID) that would levy a special assessment on the properties within the business district to pay for the improvements as well as hire an administrator responsible for marketing the business district and coordinating special activities. Considering the number of private residences that would be forced to pay the tax, I don’t consider a SID politically feasible. Plus, I’m always leery of government expansion absent an obvious need.

Location is also a problem. Were Matawan and Aberdeen to merge, the property between Church Street, Broad Street, Route 34 would have been ideal. The land is currently occupied by Matawan Borough Hall, Walgreens, and a planned senior citizen center in Aberdeen that will primarily consist of low income housing.

Another possibility is the planned transit village but that area is already slated for a combination of parking, residential, and office space.

Could the business district still blossom without an anchor? Yes, but I believe our only option is to become a food mecca. Specialty restaurants and boutique food stores can always attract traffic.

How to attract these food establishments? Implement the inexpensive improvements, market the neighborhood, and offer tax benefits.

But, of course, none of this will happen under Mayor Aufseeser. As far as she is concerned, “There [is] nothing in the report that could really help us . . . It looks like Main Street is beginning to redevelop itself.” >>> Read more!


Truth In Matawan said...

We look forward to reading this "lost" study, and thanks for the quick summary. When it's been raised so many times by so many people that the study has been "lost", we have to ask, how did you obtain it?

Aberdeener said...

You can get almost any "public" document by completing an OPRA (Open Public Record Act) application form and paying the photocopying fees. I was a bit surprised that they only had one copy on file. The Borough Administrator, Fred Carr, then saw my poor job of converting the document to an electronic format and e-mailed me a pdf version. The study was never lost. There was no cover-up. Simply, no one considered it important enough to ask to see it.

matawan advocate said...

Oh no Aberdeener you have been listening to Fred Carr. The Study was never issued to the Borough Council. The only two people who claim to have received it was Councilman Bud Mullaney and the Mayor. Reportedly Mayor Aufseeser made the decision that it wasn't important. The other Council Members, who, by the way, represent the residents of Matawan did not get a copy of the Report until Councilman Buccellato asked about it months later. Supposedly, Fred Carr placed the Reports in the Council Members mail boxes and then they mysteriously disappeared. However, Mullaney and Aufseeser claimed their copies weren't amoung the missing. Pretty shady don't you think?

Aberdeener said...

I don't think anyone in the administration considers the study important enough to warrant mischief. Such low regard for an important study is the real problem. If the council considered Main St. revitalization the priority that it is, members would have been asking for the study a long time ago.

If your concern is that an important document was misplaced and overlooked, frankly, I'm amazed that government works as often as it does.

By the way, the rumor, which Fred Carr denies, is that he will once again consider working for other localities if Buccellato is elected mayor. I don't know of any basis for the rumor but that's what some people in the borough are saying.

matawan advocate said...

Obviously, the current Mayor, Aufseeser tends to meet all Carr's demands. Logically speaking no one would leave a position where they receive everything they wanted. Matawan taxpayers are paying for Aufseeser's folly, Carr's new contract.

Truth In Matawan said...

Or could it be that Mr. Carr has seen the sad fate of all the other administrators (see Joe Leo and Bruce Hilling) under the previous regime of Messrs. Clifton and Buccellato and having a family of his own to think about, would be seeking to forestall that fate?

Or perhaps, knowing that the town is currently in litigation preventing the much-needed development at the train station, litigation driven by reckless comments made by Mr. Buccellato about the developer Silver Oaks, Mr. Carr has the wherewithal to make himself scarce before more inevitable lawsuits come the borough's way once Mr. Buccellato is elected.

Or perhaps, knowing that Mr. Buccellato engages in Pay-for-Play, most recently in the case where former Matawan Mayor and now Freeholder Rob Clifton along with the rest of the Republican-controlled freeholders voted to award a county roof project to Mr. Buccellato's firm after that firm made numerous donations to the Monmouth County Republicans, this after Mr. Buccellato's firm made the HIGHEST bid of the four companies that responded to the RFP, Mr. Carr realizes that an operation Bid Rig 2 might be in the works and wisely wants to distance himself from any forthcoming shenanigans once Mr. Buccellato is in office?

Or maybe he remembers all the hullabaloo over this study, and wonders how it was that Mr. Buccellato, despite a recommendation from the Interlocal Agency planner, Coppola & Coppola, hired by Matawan and Aberdeen to evaluate and make recommendations at the train station and then recommended Silver Oaks, a recommendation which was then accepted and voted on by Aberdeen, but was then completely ignored by Mr. Buccellato when he voted for the Columbia Group/K.Hovnanian plan, the one featuring Republican campaign contributor Jack Morris, and the one that featured more than TWICE as many new residences in Matawan (420 vs. 1000--how would THAT affect our school system, roads, or already-stretched thin police force?). And perhaps Mr. Carr wonders how it is that Mr. Buccellato felt it was perfectly fine to ignore that report but make a stink over this one, and figures it would be tough to work for someone that capricious, temperamental, and dishonest.

Perhaps those are a few of the reasons Mr. Carr might consider looking for other employment should Mr. Buccellato win. And he'd be wise to do so.

matawan advocate said...

Has Paul Buccellato been indicted? NO. Nor have any of the people mentioned in that lawsuit. Common sense would predict that if Chris Christie had cause he wouldn't sit on his hands. Does Aberdeen have any signed documents with the signatures of the Borough Council members, as is claimed, NO. You forget to mention that the current Council President Michael Cannon was also named in that lawsuit as well as all of the Matawan Borough Council at that time. Was that an oops... Be very very careful Truth in Matawan, you are bordering on malicious gossip.

Fred Carr has screwed up all by himself. He has misinformed the residents (we can substantiate with documentation) as well as other mistakes. Although we would have to use OPRA to get copies of Borough Council Meeting Minutes. They still are not available on line. If you consistently screw up on your job, do you anticipate a raise? We don't think so!

Truth In Matawan said...

Councilman Cannon is named, yes, as is Ms. Buragina, Freeholder Clifton, et al, but guess what? None of them are running for mayor! Mr. Buccellato is, hence the relevance. It's like putting a target square on our borough's back!

Not sure of all this evidence of repeated screw-ups by Mr. Carr as you claim, though. Besides the not-actually-lost "lost" study, what else are you referring to?

As for the minutes, well, we agree with you 1000% on that one. If only the municipal clerk we're saddled with would be able to transcribe the minutes in a timely fashion...

matawan advocate said...

Yes, and not one has been indicted either. Unfortunately, Buragina lost her seat on the Borough Council during the last election. What does it say when the most knowledgeable person as to Redevelopment, Debra Buragina, gets voted off the Council. Mendes who is connected to a business right in the Transit Village area gets voted in. She and Buccellato agreed on their vision for the Transit Village. Once again the victim of malicious rumors. Goes to show you how the truth can be twisted until no one can recognize it.

Truth In Matawan said...

Wait, who's the victim of rumors? Mendes?

matawan advocate said...

Truth in Matawan, Let us not waste Aberdeener's value blog for nonsense. Don't know what you are referring to with the Mendes comment. The voters of Matawan spoke when they elected him over Debra Buragina. Time will tell as to what Mendes brings to the Borough.

Anonymous said...

Buragina knowledgeable??? The last time she was to show a presentation on the Transit Village, she had the layout upside down and was pointing to the wrong site points, thats how knowledgeable she is!!! One of the reason shes "GONE NOW". Besides the fact she had to be cued on most of her talks by Buccellato. This town was not run down in the last two years,its been that way for many years under Republican rule, its only changing for the good , now thats why the previous council menbers were 'VOTED OUT".

Truth In Matawan said...

We concur on most of these points.