‘What’s going on here?’

The annual State of the City address, typically delivered during the City Council’s annual reorganization at its first meeting of the year in January, will instead this year be delivered by Interim Mayor Samson Steinman on Feb. 5 at Hamilton Stage for Performing Arts.

Sometimes the State of the City is big on announcements but due to circumstances doesn’t come to fruition for some time (like this mention of artist housing from 2010)if at all (talk of a downtown grocery store in 2012).

The mayor is likely to have some announcements since he’ll probably seek a full, four-year term in the fall. In the meantime, there are some items that have been percolating in my head over the years of observations and discussion. They’re not grandiose, expensive tasks but simple enough to boost transparency, public input and general awareness.

“What’s Going On Here?”

Metro Rahway, a 116-unit complex between Elm Avenue and West Cherry Street that should be completed in 2014.
Metro Rahway, a 116-unit complex between Elm Avenue and West Cherry Street that should be completed in 2014.

This has been a pet peeve of mine and certainly not just in Rahway. Currently, Metro Rahway does a decent job of making some type of presentation at its construction site with some signage providing an inkling of what’s going on (and even a Facebook page). But it’s more vital at projects that might not be as obvious or as far along. In some cities, it’s a requirement that a developer present signage or permits indicating the plans for that specific site, including details on when votes and approvals will take place, maybe even a few renderings. New York City (and yes, Rahway is not NYC) has criteria for “Construction Project Information Signs,” but you’ve probably also seen similar signage at projects elsewhere.

“Coming Soon!” But not really…

There’s no need for a “Coming Soon” sign that’s overcome by grass growing around it. For how poorly that can turn out, look no further than the failed KC Jazz Club , which simultaneously has both a “For Sale” and “Coming Soon” sign.

There’s nothing worse than a “Coming Soon” sign that just doesn’t mean it because it does the opposite of its intention: becoming discouraging rather than encouraging.

The corner of Main and Monroe streets is another example. The recession put a stake into the heart of The Savoy project years ago, making the “Coming Soon” signs irrelevant at best, tacky at worst, however, the torch has been picked up in the form of the proposed Lafayette Village project.

Future home of Meridia Lafayette Village
The corner of Main and Monroe streets: The future home of Meridia Lafayette Village, which is expected to break ground in 2014.

Despite local approvals, that project has been delayed by at least a year in the state permitting process, though it could finally break ground in 2014. It still would be wise to have some type of presentation at such a key corner of downtown, perhaps not with a specific timeline given the state’s involvement, but some basic inkling of plans and approvals rather than nothing but a vacant plot.

Something as simple as an eye catching, “What’s Going On Here?” placard, followed by details and information such as number of units or density (stuff you’d find in a public notice) and possibly renderings. The signage does not have to be static and unchanged even if there are months (or years) of delays.

Today’s technology is there: most people have the Internet in their pocket so let’s put it to use.  QR codes could be incorporated, or something that directs passersby to more information on the web. I can just hear some folks now: “What if it’s vandalized?” Well, sometimes you’re just going to have to put yourself out there and see what happens…

The City Council or Redevelopment Agency could make this request to developers as part of any redevelopment agreement but also require that it be updated semi-annually, perhaps every quarter. The cost would be minimal but the benefits much greater in terms of public awareness and exposure.

Thoughts, feelings and opinions?

Part II coming soon…

8 thoughts on “‘What’s going on here?’”

  1. I really enjoyed this stepping out from behind “strictly reporting of facts” to a little more advocacy. Given the knowledge you’ve gained over the years from reporting the blog, it’s great that you occasionally share that backstory. Keep it up!

  2. Be a great idea. So would signs directing drivers to parking lots, The UCPAC, HAMILTON STAGE, ARTS GUILD, etc.

  3. I live and own the property directly across from “coming soon jazz restaurant”…im sick of it!!!!…..really …enough already! !….take the eyesore down….I made my building look as best I can …have good tenants. Including myself and we have to stare at this building across the street…..it seems no one cares what goes on Irving street…below main street…. c’mon rahway “arts district”…

  4. Phil, sorry you have to look at that every day. I’m not sure how feasible knocking down that eyesore would be, considering it cost the city $100k+ to knock down the burned out building at 65 E. Cherry, and that wasn’t until it buckled: http://www.rahwayrising.com/city-forecloses-on-65-e-cherry-st/

    Perhaps in the meantime, the Arts District can make the building its next ambitious mural project: http://www.rahwayrising.com/sculptures-mural-lab-jumpstart-public-art-plan/

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