BERNARDSVILLE – Detailed plans for the development of a “Quimby Village’’ downtown business and residential district were presented in a study unveiled by the borough Monday.
The Quimby Lane Redevelopment Plan, a 92-page document prepared by Topology, LLC., a Newark-based consulting firm, was introduced as an ordinance by the Borough Council at its virtual meeting on Monday night, Sept. 14.
The plan will now be subject to a Planning Board review to determine consistency with the borough Master Plan, followed by final adoption of the ordinance by the council on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
The process began about four years ago in 2016 with a master plan re-examination calling for a study of Quimby Lane. After extensive studies, the council designated the site as a “non-condemnation area’’ in need of rehabilitation to facilitate the improvement project under state redevelopment laws in January.
The plan, which amends the borough zoning ordinance, was drafted with extensive input from a borough Redevelopment Committee. On Monday, Councilman Tom O’Dea, a member of that committee, said the group spent many hours in meetings with Topology going over the plans with “a fine tooth comb.’’
He called it a “fairly robust plan that is going to open the door to untapped potential’’ downtown.
The report itself says the plan “represents a milestone in the borough of Bernardsville’s efforts to reimagine its downtown for the benefit of generations of residents and visitors to come.’’
It “sets forth a vision and standards for a group of properties in the vicinity of Quimby Lane and the Bernardsville Train Station that collectively hold the potential to transform the community’s downtown, radically expanding the quality and quantity of amenities and activities offered while facilitating high-quality development that will create a critical mass of activity.’’
A redevelopment plan is “a detailed zoning ordinance that can include specific design standards and mandate public improvements,’’ the report says, but is not “a site plan or a building blueprint.’’
“You’re not going to see a drawing where buildings are going to go,’’ Chris Colley of Topology told the council. “We’re establishing parameters.’’
The selected developers still need to propose specific projects for the borough’s approval.
“The plan requires the borough to be proactive and aggressive in moving the ball forward,’’ Colley said.
The redevelopment area totals less than five acres. It consists of 25 separate parcels with 21 different owners. The large number of property owners involved and the fact that much of the area lies in a floodway, complicates the project.
The site is bound by Mill Street to the north, Olcott Square to the east, Mine Brook Road to the south and Claremont Road to the west. It is bisected by Quimby Lane.
“Because of diverse ownership, successful implementation of the Redevelopment Plan will require coordination between property owners or consolidation of property ownership,’’ the study notes.
Having one “master re-developer’’ would be ideal, Colley said during the meeting, but the plan allows for multiple developers as well.
Expected public benefits include:
- Residential rental units or condominiums with a quality level of finishes.
- 12 units of affordable housing in accordance with the zoning overlay.
- Creation of new restaurants, wine bars and food services sufficient to create a night life as well as “experiential retail.”
- A public park called “Mine Brook Park’’ that enhances the amenity of the Mine Brook.
- Public plazas including “Quimby Plaza’’ that create gathering places for residents and visitors.
- Year round management and programming of public spaces.
- Consistency in architecture, signage and landscaping features that support a European village low key environment.
- A pedestrian connection from Claremont Road to Olcott Square, and to the regional rail and bus service nearby.
- Sufficient parking for the new residents and for visitors to the restaurants and retail.
To permit flexibility, the redevelopment site has been divided into six “sub areas’’ that can be developed together or separately. Each has its own specific land use regulations in the plan.
Sub Area 1 consists of land east of Quimby Lane that includes the Post Office site.
This area is considered “borough controlled.’’ The designated developer would be obligated to create a Conceptual Development Plan (CDP) for this site, which is considered of particular importance.
This area would include the “Quimby Plaza,’’ a site to accommodate community gatherings and programs.
The plaza is seen as “gathering place for residents and visitors for daytime and nighttime activities, serve to create a walkable community feel, and help connect Olcott Square and Mine Brook Park.’’
To expedite implementation of the plan, efforts may be undertaken by the redeveloper or borough “to identify alternative locations suitable to the Post Office,’’ it notes.
Sub areas 2, 3 and 5 are also east of Quimby Lane. Mixed uses are envisioned in area two, which includes the Bernards Inn and vicinity; area three, which includes the movie theater; and area five, which fronts on Mill Street and abuts Olcott Square.
The redevelopment plan is designed add to the borough’s “inventory of retail, restaurant and experiential downtown uses to bring activity’’ to the area.
It’s also designed to “promote residential development that creates new foot traffic’’ to help support existing businesses and “create new economic activity.’’
A minimum of 80 new residential units are envisioned overall, including 12 affordable units to meet state requirements.
Mine Brook Park
Located west of Quimby Lane, sub areas 4 and 6 would be part of the proposed Mine Brook Park.
Money from the borough’s open space fund could be used to create the park, along with private contributions.
Sub area 4 fronts on Mill Street. The plan “permits a wide range of uses’’ here because it is largely outside of the flood plane but “the rear of the property should remain open and publicly accessible to allow for entry to the Mine Brook,’’ according to the report.
Sub area 6 is envisioned mostly as open space, including the new public park that “will enhance the amenity of the waterway and pedestrian connections.’’
As this area “is almost entirely located within the Mine Brook’s floodway, development is highly restricted,’’ the report says. “Development within sub area 6 is primarily limited to the reuse of existing structures or building footprints, and the creation of new open space.’’
The redevelopment study provides comprehensive design standards for elements such as parking, streetscape, sidewalks, lighting, permitted building materials, street furniture, signage and facades.
Mayor Mary Jane Canose said the entire plan will be posted on the borough’s website at www.bernardsvilleboro.org for the public to view.
– Charlie Zavalick, Editor