ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — On July 25, the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved two resolutions to allocate $1,062,266.95 for the completion of the Irvington Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project. The project’s goal is to revitalize the street and commercial districts along Irvington Avenue in South Orange, Maplewood and Newark.
Plan specifics include: creating a bike route that connects the corridor and the various municipalities; improving public spaces; encouraging infill development, sidewalk renovations and new lighting; and establishing the corridor’s eastern end, where Parker and Irvington avenues meet, as a new destination point for patrons from the surrounding areas called “Maplewood Corners.”
These plans were laid out in “Irvington Avenue: Creating a Complete Corridor,” an August 2014 project study completed by Together North Jersey, which partnered with Maplewood, South Orange, Newark, Essex County, the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce and NJ Transit for it.
“Seton Village was bustling, but we wanted to look at the entire Irvington Avenue corridor. We got a great plan together and now it’s about the implementation,” South Orange village President Sheena Collum told the News-Record in an Aug. 16 phone interview.
According to Collum, Maplewood took the lead in the project in 2014. She singled out Maplewood employee Annette DePalma, who led the initiative, saying DePalma “ensured we had a full, comprehensive look at the corridor.”
Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said the goal of the plan, which deals with the upper part of Irvington Avenue, is beautifying the area and making it safer for those traveling through.
“This is a real plus. We’ve been trying for a very long time to get this done. We’re pleased to be partnering with the county on this,” DeLuca told the News-Record in an Aug. 16 phone interview. “Hopefully this will lead into Phase 2 to redo the intersection of Parker Avenue and Irvington Avenue. I’m looking forward to getting this under way.”
Once completed, the Irvington Avenue corridor will be in compliance with Essex County’s Complete Streets policy, allowing for safe travel by those walking, cycling, driving and riding public transportation. Complete Streets aims to make the streets safe and accessible for everyone, regardless of their means of transport.
Freeholder President Brendan Gill, a strong proponent of the Complete Streets policy, is pleased the freeholders and county administration were able to work together and ensure the project would move forward.
“County roads such as Irvington Avenue are vital to the fabric of our communities. It is important to ensure that these roads are passable from a traveling perspective, and we must also make sure they are aesthetically pleasing and welcoming to businesses, their patrons, residents and visitors alike,” Gill said in a recent press release. “The Irvington Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project will accomplish this for the communities of South Orange, Maplewood and Newark. I am happy that the board was able to play a part in this process, and I look forward to seeing the finished product.”
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. also expressed his pleasure that the project is coming together.
“An ongoing initiative of my administration has been to update our infrastructure so that safety is enhanced for pedestrians and motorists, and the growing needs of the community are met,” DiVincenzo said in the press release. “The Irvington Avenue streetscape improvements will improve the flow of traffic and modernize a busy commercial and residential thoroughfare in three of our municipalities.”
DeLuca said he believes contracts for the work on the corridor will go out in the fall.
“Hopefully this will go quickly,” DeLuca said. “This is the first phase of a two-phase process and I’m very happy to get it going.”
Collum also hopes to see the work under way soon and is pleased to see the county finally moving ahead with the plan.
“I’m grateful to the county for supplying the funds necessary to complete this project,” she said. “Beautification and pedestrian safety are key concerns. We need to do crosswalk repairs. We need to make it friendly for people to visit Irvington Avenue and patronize businesses.”