‘Rahway 2020’ — or beyond

Part I was posted on Monday. Here’s Part II of some observations and musings ahead of the 2013 State of the City address, which Interim Mayor Samson Steinman will deliver on Wednesday at Hamilton Stage for Performing Arts.

Rahway 2020

2020 may sound like some distant Buck Rogers-like time but it’s not. It’s only six years from now. Think about where redevelopment in Rahway stood six years ago, circa  2008. (Oh hey, that’s easy because there’s this terrific local blog that’s been around since 2007):

* Hamilton Laundry building was still standing and the Bell Building was still just the Bell Building, not the Hamilton Stage.

* Town Center was still believed to be a possibility.

* Cubanu and Luciano’s had only recently opened.

* Park Square was many months from completion.

* Downtown vehicular traffic was still going in one direction while the hotel didn’t open until mid-year.

Now think about where it should/could/will be in 2020 — but not in a way that a lawyer or planner would describe it. The crux of Rahway 2020 is to present a vision of what might be expected within six years. But put in simple terms: Talk right down to Earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.

Redevelopment PlanThere’s a time and place for the planners and lawyers, like two years ago, when the city updated its redevelopment plan, consolidating the various amendments since the original 1998 plan was drafted. It’s still the blueprint for redevelopment but no one is likely to know about it outside of the usual suspects: city officials, planners and developers. Rahway 2020, or whatever you want to call it, would distill major themes and key points of that plan into an easy-to-digest format, targeted primarily toward the general public.

By no means is 2020 meant to be some finish line. It’s merely a milepost along the highway, perhaps a rest area to stop, reassess and shift (if necessary), on the way to Rahway 2025 or Rahway 2030.

Smarter folks than me can come up with a snappier name for this combination of planning and marketing but basically, it’s not unlike something you’d typically hear in State of the City remarks. Interim Mayor Samson Steinman is expected to run for election to a full, four-year term this year, so perhaps it’d be presumptuous to unveil a plan labeled ‘2020’ if his term only runs through 2018. We can quibble about that another time.

One could argue that some entity has done this to some extent already, whether the Redevelopment Agency and its $135k marketing plan (it’s a start) or the Special Improvement District (SID)-funded Arts District, which has improved the city’s web presence of the city and arts district/downtown area. The audience for the Redevelopment Agency’s marketing efforts, however, seems to be developers and not residents or taxpayers — and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Park Square.Irving StreetThere’s a perception among some of the public that city’s plan is to build, build and build more apartments. It would seem a good idea to articulate some updated vision or next phase. Rahway’s redevelopment sometimes is referred to as being in such a ‘second phase,’ but really not enough to resonate, at least with residents. Kudos to whoever managed to get some kind coverage of Rahway’s redevelopment recently, though it was a bit soft for my tastes (but then again, I’m not the general public).

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you know substance always takes precedence over style, but I’m often reminded of the saying: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”