2004-10-07 / Front Page

Old Bridge awarded grant for sidewalks

$100,000 from county will help officials create
BY SUE M. MORGAN Staff Writer

Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — Sidewalks eventually could line the south side of Route 516 in the area that the township seeks to promote as “Main Street.”

With the goal of making the existing Village at Town Center shopping center more accessible to pedestrians coming from the area of the municipal center, township officials will accept a $100,000 grant from the Middlesex County Board of Freeholders tonight.

The award from the county’s Downtown and Business District Improvement Fund comes from the Middlesex County Economic Development Department, according to Russell Azzarello, executive director of the Old Bridge Economic Development Corp., who lobbied for the grant on the township’s behalf.

Azzarello announced the award,

which the county gave to Old Bridge for the first time, at the Township Council meeting Sept. 25.

The money will be used to pay for sidewalks and curbing along the perimeter of the municipal center at Route 516 and Cottrell Road, Azzarello told the council.

As a result, anyone visiting or working in the municipal center who wishes to patronize merchants at the Village at Town Center shopping center situated directly across Route 516 will be able to walk safely to that location by using the sidewalks, he said.

Many visitors and employees of the municipal center drive to the shopping center now rather than face the dangers of crossing Route 516, a heavily traveled, two-lane county road, Azzarello said. Once the sidewalks are in, pedestrians will be able to walk from the municipal center to the traffic signal at Route 516 and Cottrell Road, and cross over to the Village at Town Center, he said.

Sidewalks are needed to help merchants in the shopping center attract pedestrian traffic, Azzarello said.

“We definitely need to do something to attract the more ambulatory,” Azzarello said.

Although plans have not yet been drawn, Azzarello said the new sidewalks could extend from inside the municipal center’s existing walkways out to Route 516 and to Cottrell Road.

The sidewalks on the north side of Route 516 could include pavers, which would possibly “mirror” the sidewalks that are in front of the businesses at the Village at Town Center, he said.

“It would make a nice walk area,” Azzarello said. “I think the merchants would be happy.”

Besides sidewalks and curbs, the grant money can be used for other amenities such as walkways, a bicycle path and courtyard, according to a township newsletter issued by the office of Mayor Jim Phillips. Such amenities could come later as Old Bridge’s planned town center district evolves, Azzarello said.

In November, the Planning Board approved Wall Township-based Jerald Development’s general development plan for The Crossings at Old Bridge, a 141,000-square-foot retail/residential complex planned for 27 acres at the northeast corner of Route 516 and Cottrell Road.

To date, no preliminary or final site plan has been approved for the Crossings, which would include a mix of upscale shops, restaurants, a movie theater, loft apartments above stores, and age-restricted townhouses — all on the site of the former Cottrell Farm.

Once constructed, the Crossings would become part of the town center district, which officials have been trying to create for several years. The township has expectations of eventually providing residents with the equivalent of a downtown or a central business district.

Old Bridge’s receipt of the full county grant is especially noteworthy because, unlike municipalities such as New Brunswick or Perth Amboy, it has no downtown or business district, Azzarello explained.

“The grants are usually given to towns that actually have a downtown,” Azzarello said.

Sometimes county officials split the $100,000 between a few municipalities, Azzarello said.

“I’m extremely proud of the fact that we got the whole $100,000,” he said.

Design of the sidewalks and curbs will be left to the township’s engineering department, which will probably assign some of the work in-house, Azzarello said.

Township Engineer John Vincenti and Township Planner Sam Rizzo are credited with making the case to the county about how much the sidewalks and curbs are needed.

Besides Vincenti and Rizzo, Azzarello thanked the county freeholders for their support as well.

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