Remember the Rahway Survey? I bet it’s been awhile since you thought about those signs around town last year that directed you to a Web site to solicit your opinions and shopping habits, among other things. A Phase 1 report by Merchantville-based Community Insights was presented Friday morning to several dozen people during a meeting hosted by the Rahway Center Partnership.
The 22-page report includes “preliminary strategic recommendations” which will be included in a bound report expected by the end of the year. Friday’s presentation was aimed at rounding out findings and conclusions regarding market analysis and retail assessment.
There were 614 responses to the survey. Results were previewed this past summer by the Rahway Center Partnership and several developers that have projects in town. There’s quite a bit to the report so I’ll try to post about it in digestable chunks: the inventory and survey of existing commercial property downtown; results of the Rahway Survey; recommendations by Community Insights, the consultants hired by the Partnership to conduct the study, and Phase II. Amid those posts will probably be some other miscellaneous items.
Of the 223 commercial properties identified within downtown, more than half of the available retail space (55 percent) is devoted to non-retail use. “This is why downtown seems so empty; it covers a large linear area (12,500 linear feet/2.3 miles), yet offers very little in shopping or dining opportunities,” according to the report.
Here’s a breakdown of the 55 percent that’s non-retail use:
- 20 percent (43 units) were vacant — “very high, but understandable in a construction zone”
- 18 percent (40 units) were non-retail commercial in what should be retail space alone — these are uses that should be moved to the second floor or side streets to preserve space for browse-retail
- 17 percent (39 units) were residential at grade
There were 24 restaurants/eateries, including 5 delis, 2 pizzerias and a few fine, sit-down dining, 8 salons, 6 convenience/grocery stores, 5 antiques and home decor, and 3 barbers. What was missing was a grocery, clothing, bakery, butcher, books and housewares.