Plans and activities in the works for downtown district

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — With township organizations gearing up for another calendar year, the Bloomfield Center Alliance has a project in mind that would be transformative.

It is called the Gateway to Bloomfield Project and it targets Bloomfield Avenue under the Garden State Parkway. The township would like the area to have a new look and the BCA will use a $70,000 Community Development Block Grant to find out what.
“Basically, it’s reimagining an entrance to Bloomfield Center,” said BCA Director Ollyn Lettman earlier this week. “There’s nothing there that says you’re in Bloomfield.”

At the minimum, he said, the area must give people a good impression of the township. Once he has been given that vision, the next step would be raising the funds to see it realized.
But in 2019, the BCA will be mostly concerned with building on its own success.
“We’re adding more dates to ‘Dinner Under the Stars,’” Lettman said. “And on Glenwood Avenue, ‘Eats and Beats’ started last year. We see Glenwood Avenue as another destination. It was the first time we worked with the restaurants there.”

But that activity, scheduled for mid-October last year, was hampered by inclement weather. Lettman has said it may be moved to September.
“The weather in 2018 was a real problem,” he said.

Rain last year also washed out the 4th annual Washington Street Block Party, scheduled for Saturday, May 20. Rain was forecast for that entire weekend and with the event pressed against “Dinner Under the Stars” the next weekend, the BCA had to cancel its signature event.
“This year we’re going to have an open weekend between the two,” Lettman said.

But the BCA director does not consider what is on his calendar as all the BCA might have to say for the year. Lettman said he prides himself as having a great staff and the support of the township council.
“‘Eats and Beats’ was put together in less than three months,” he said. “With support, we can be nimble.”
Entering its second year will be the BCA-initiated “Bloomfield Center Give Back Campaign.” This concept had local nonprofit organizations matched to various downtown restaurants. On select dates, a portion of the bill would be contributed to the nonprofit.

“But the customer has to make it clear they want a portion to go to the nonprofit,” Lettman said.
The BCA Facade Improvement Program, where property or business owners can receive up to $3,000 to make the property more attractive, will continue in 2019.

“We had a great transformation of a building on Bloomfield Avenue,” Lettman said. “There were two different grants — one for the property owner and one for the business owner.”

But there is anticipation of Bloomfield Center businesses closing, too. Foremost is Roxy Florist, located at Glenwood Avenue and Washington Street, on one of the “Five Corners” of Bloomfield Center. The shop has been located there since the early ‘50s.

“Roxy leaving will be a big blow,” Lettman said. “Having a flower shop in the downtown area is critical. We’ll miss Nick Zios, the owner, but change happens. It’s important to note that we’re gaining some businesses. Also, you have to make veteran owners current and flexible if they are going to stay.”