WILDWOOD CREST – “You’ve hit a home run,” Police Chief Joseph McGrath said Oct. 23. “This is wonderful for the Borough of Wildwood Crest.” McGrath praised Borough Commissioners for their efforts and vision for New Jersey Avenue.
Scott Taylor, of the Taylor Design Group, Inc., presented a streetscape plan during the Oct. 23 commissioners’ meeting. Residents posed several questions about the project.
According to Taylor, to compete with other municipalities, i.e., North Wildwood and Stone Harbor, a “downtown” area is crucial. Finding the balance between parking and retail/public spaces must be pursued.
In 2002, Avalon was experiencing a “building boom,” said Taylor, mirroring the borough’s recent boom. Officials looked at how they could redesign and make the downtown more “walkable.”
The result was blocks of retail space. Stone Harbor developed a more condensed area – the “six block sweet spot,” according to Taylor.
Taylor showed visuals of how a six-block retail area could look. The proposed area would stretch from Columbine to Heather roads, incorporating new lighting, landscaping, decorative pavers, and retail space.
Who Will Pay?
Cape May County has scheduled a reconstruction project for New Jersey Avenue, and will pay for the project. Borough Administrator Constance Mahon said county officials may also pay for lighting costs as well. All other expenses would be absorbed by the borough.
Mayor Don Cabrera said the county would begin their project in the spring of 2021, leaving the public and leaders plenty of time to consult and adjust the plan.
“This is all conceptual,” Taylor said. A stakeholder meeting will be held in Borough Hall Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. for business owners to discuss ideas.
“It’s important to have the support of New Jersey Avenue business owners,” Cabrera said.
According to Taylor, adequate parking on a barrier island is paramount.
Commissioners have already acquired half of a lot adjacent to Tony Luke’s restaurant. Once the whole lot is acquired, 20 additional parking spaces will be created.
Further studies will be conducted over the coming months.
What's the Theme?
According to the mayor, the original train station was located in the project. He has referred to the area as “Crest Station.” A final decision on the name has not been made. Decorative pavers in crosswalks could bear the imprint of train tracks.
A maritime element will be a part of the design, said Taylor.
Cyclists will enjoy a designated bike lane, and textured rumble strips will help motorists slow down while driving.
“Slower speeds are great for downtowns,” Taylor said.
Will Taxes be Impacted?
In response to residents’ questions, Taylor said new ratables would offset the municipal rate. The Crest also has the advantage of county coverage of road costs.
Commissioner David Thompson responded to allegations that commissioners are trying to “sneak” the liquor referendum through in conjunction with the project.
“This board will never sneak anything by you,” Thompson said. The county will conduct its project regardless of what may or may not happen with redevelopment. A petition for a liquor license hasn’t been filed with the clerk’s office.
The mayor reminded residents that state law permits one consumption license in the Crest. Hotels/motels, with over 100 sleeping units, could obtain a license per state regulation, but none have expressed interest, according to Cabrera.
“Wildwood Crest is becoming very popular,” Cabrera said.
Officials seek to keep tourists instead of watching them go to other communities for shopping and dining. The mayor said no one can “go out for coffee” in the Crest.
Tax Assessor Jason Hesley said the borough needs to “look at what worked in other towns and what hasn’t worked.”
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