BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield Center Alliance had its second block party of the summer along Washington Street on Saturday, Aug. 27.
The street is a good place for a block party. It is tucked away into the epicenter of the downtown Bloomfield district, which is the focal point of efforts by the BCA for generating foot traffic. It is easy to block off and free parking is provided steps away. On one side of the street is the Glenwood Village redevelopment project, with its ground-level pubs; and on the other side are building facades reminiscent of Greenwich Village and a variety of small businesses and restaurants.
But for BCA Executive Director Ollyn Lettman, the convenience of Washington Street is the beginning of what he hopes will be an expanding presence of his organization in other downtown events.
“We want to promote the entire district,” Lettman said at the block party. “Maybe a concert series at Watsessing Park. But that is a more difficult place to program an event. East of the Parkway overpass, where do you do anything? We’d love to do something past the Parkway, but we haven’t come up with an idea yet.”
Another concern Lettman has is the area of Bloomfield Avenue beneath the Parkway, a topic first brought up by Bloomfield elected officials when the Parkway sliced through the township in the mid-50s, according to news accounts from this newspaper.
“We’d like to figure out some beautification under the Parkway,” Lettman said. “It’s a terrible transition from that end of the district to here.”
But identifying the funds to do something with this area has eluded him so far, Lettman said. He has contacted the state, to no avail.
One BCA success Lettman said he wanted to build on is “Cruise Nights,” when classic cars park along Broad Street at Bloomfield Avenue. This happens on Wednesday evenings, from June to August, but Lettman said businesses in the area are reluctant to stay open for “Cruise Nights” and the BCA has to figure out a way to promote those businesses, to encourage them to remain open.
At the upcoming “HarvestFest,” scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 6 and 7, Lettman said the BCA will most likely feature a beer garden. He also said that, last year, the Broad Street event crossed Bloomfield Avenue and went down Glenwood Avenue, but it will not this year.
“Bloomfield Avenue was very problematic,” he said. “We did it last year, because the redevelopment had just opened up and ‘Jack’s Foodtown’ came in. But Bloomfield Avenue is such a busy thoroughfare that people chose not to cross the street.”
The BCA would also like to promote township businesses at end of November, Lettman said, on “Small Business Saturday, “ an American Express designation for Nov. 28.
“Last year, we did a coupon book,” Lettman said. “We reached out to about 15 businesses to get some kind of deal. We would like to do that again.”
The BCA is also thinking of having a holiday wrapping station, where shoppers can bring their packages. The station would provide eggnog, cookies, Santa and holiday music.
“This is just an idea,” he said. “We have to find a place and encourage people to buy gifts.”
Lettman, who is assisted by his events coordinator Jackie Apicella, said his “goal is to generate the buzz. Bloomfield should be remembered when you’re thinking about shopping and dining and taking the family out.”