While exploring Cape May County by way of historic trolly tour in Southern New Jersey, I could not help but stop in amazement at one of the most beautifully restored churches I had ever seen. After the tour ended, we drove back over to this church/ residence so that I could take photos. Built in a Gothic Style in 1879, the Franklin Street Methodist Church was built as a house of worship as both a Methodist and then a Baptist Church for the African American community living in Cape May. Just about 8 years ago, a local businessman Bill Sapanaro got his hands on this amazing piece of architecture and transformed the complete interior to create 3 Condo rental units with all of the modern amenities. Sapanaro heads up the Cape May Designer Show House (which benefits the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts) and entered his design in 2006. Because historic designation was only made to the exterior of this church, the design teams and architects were able to take full advantage of the interestingly shaped interior with high ceilings as a way to invest in a quite unique property for tourists. Colors have been kept true to the period and the iron gate is all original. Below is a link to the rental listing which includes photos of the interior. The entire restoration of this property took only 5 months.
To reach an agreement for a development project in Helmetta, NJ for 200 non age-restricted units, Kaplan Development has agreed to pay the neighboring town of Spotswood $9,000 per student after the first 19 that reside in soon to be developed vacant 1884 snuff mill which was closed down in 1993. Since the town of Helmetta itself does not have any public schools within its 580 acre area, its residents utilize Spotswood School District. The original plan for this site was for the development of 225 age-restricted one and two bedroom units and a civic center which would be donated to the town by the developer. When the plans were then changed to 200 “non” age-restricted units and presented to Spotswood, a lawsuit was filed against the developer due to fear that this would lead to approx 66 newly enrolled students in the school system placing a tax burden on residents. While Helmetta Mayor Nancy Martin is excited to see improvements to the site and creation of a civic center and recreation center within the town, Spotswood Mayor Tom Barlow is not as happy.
I myself am a Spotswood Resident and also a big fan of redevelopment and revitalization so my feelings are somewhat mixed on this issue. My children go to school in Spotswood with the Helmetta students. We moved to this town for it’s blue ribbon school status and small classroom size. I do appreciate knowing that Kaplan will step in to cover additional financial impact for extra students outside of the number 19, but money will not cover the change it will have on the student body if the children moving into this redeveloped site are very close in age and overload certain grade levels in the schools. Now on the other hand, I have driven past that snuff mill since I could remember and it’s always been a very depressing site. I am very pleased that it will be repurposed to something useful in our neighboring town rather than remain a ghost of a structure and a possible gathering place for mischief, crime, and or injury to curious teenagers. Engineers say traffic flow on Main Street (the only street through Helmetta) will not be impeded by the construction. The property will have multiple entrances is promised to accommodate all types of vehicles, including emergency vehicles, efficiently Two variances were needed for this development, first variance excused the developer from a 40 ft set back requirement (they will use 36 ft) and also they were allowed to fall 10 parking spaces short of required 388 spaces for a 200 unit site. My children visit friends in Helmetta and I am sure all of our families will benefit from this project.
Since I was younger I have always had the issue of homelessness on my mind. While reviewing Chapters in our text on Social Issues and Community Development, I wondered how planning could collide with our vast population of volunteers within communities to help those in need. Aside from soup kitchens and shelters, I was thinking along the lines of the possibility of zoning for non-profit facilities that could fall under the “group home” category. What I had in mind was a type of pod system which is used in China for workers that are too far from home and need to rest for the night at a very low cost. The sleeping pod is clean, cozy, and can be closed for privacy and safety. What I would propose to help with people that have lost their homes and are on the streets would be a pod type facility with adjacent shower stalls and bathrooms. This may sound ridiculous and look funny, but it would be safe and clean and cared for by volunteers of the city that it was constructed within. How would we fund such a facility? Just as the concept of “suspended coffee” explained in this article, http://www.suspendedcoffees.com/ where people are able to purchase a second cup of coffee that can be taken later in the day but a perfect stranger in need of a warm beverage, I think the same idea can be used to provide sleeping quarters for the weary.For people wanting to directly help the homeless (but may want to do in anonymously) would PAY IT FORWARD by either making donations online or paying in person for nightly stays at this facility to get some warm rest and take a shower. I believe the public would LOVE to see this occur to keep human being out of the cold and show them how their city cares for them. Another option would be to join forces with public YMCA to utilize facilities during the night for showers and use cots for sleeping during times that it would otherwise be closed. In this case, volunteers would serve the purpose of set up and clean up each evening. I feel we all have so much more to give our communities – especially those in need and need to find the easiest ways to get funding into as many services as possible to accommodate the immediate needs. Our text mentions the resistance of having group homes established in communities, but I don’t believe that that would be the majority response in most cities, it must be a stat form a less urban area.
In 2009 The Environmental Protection Agency shut down beach access to Laurence Harbor beach front which is a section of Old Bridge Township due to contamination of the water of slag from National Lead Industrial Site in Sayreville. Long padlocked fencing is a constant reminder not to use the beach and swim in the water. I read an article in the Star Ledger which made the situation even more grim than ever. Poor residents don’t have use of their snack bar pavilion, and they couldn’t swim last year, or this year, and maybe not next year. The truth of the matter is that being from Laurence Harbor (the slum of Old Bridge as they call it), we know if we were to even step foot in that water we would be punished. That is not an ocean, it’s a bay. It’s a bay that collects all of the garbage that floats in from the ocean. The bigger problem of this mess is not that we can’t go in that nasty water (why would we when we can drive 20 minutes and then we have miles and miles of beautiful beaches with access to the ACTUAL ocean). The problem is the drop in housing prices due to the years of fencing and urgent signs which appear at signs of a mass contamination of a town, not scum in the water. I will say that the town was awarded money for improvement of the boardwalks, walking paths, and children’s playground which does help the community, but the fencing is such an obstacle to anyone that wishes to sell their home in the area. Who knows how long it will go on. My lingering question for the EPA is …. why did you fence off the beach but you allow the pier to remain open for fishing?
A recent trip to Philadelphia led me to Walnut Street between 9th and 17th streets. As I walked along the sidewalk I realized how nice the area felt and remembered some of the reasons as related to principles of urban planning. The feeling that was conveyed from wide sidewalks, tree lined streets, and youthful fun businesses was one of comfort and competence. Not having visited that part of Philly (or any part for that matter) in a few years, I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality feel of the area.
Speaking in terms of urban design, it was created very smartly. The traffic patterns flowed smoothly, conversely to the busy bustle of New York City. One reason is that this is a much smaller and less dense area, but it was designed that way for a reason. This allowed for some on street parking which adds a level of protection for pedestrians on the sidewalks. The overall design philosophy, in my opinion was that of New Urbanism. Specifically, the area where I was looking at apartments, was very local (walking distance) to all the amenities needed to live well. The subway line and bus service is well within walking distance from pretty much all the commercial areas around Walnut.
Some nice features of the area are convenient parking, nearby public transit, walkability, nice bars and restaurants, and entertainment outlets. Also located in the area is Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square, and the Walnut Street Theater. The theater is the “oldest continuously run theater in the English-speaking world.” The theater helps top off the rich cultural emphasis planners placed in the area.
This is a fine example of a well planned area that is a successful commercial district and asset to the city. The key to having a nice development such as this is the early work of planners in the late 17th century. Rittenhouse Square was one of the original parks preserved by William Penn, and has been a highly desired place to live ever since. There are several main lines of transportation which are in the vicinity of the park, as well as a library and parts of the University of the Arts. It shows that planning is a very important process and is one that must be concentrated on the distant future. From a personal standpoint, planning is a futile effort for the now. Many of the most successful and popular destinations are places that were planned in great detail, coinciding with the initial development of the country. Apart from that aside, I feel that planning does have its place and can be a powerful tool for creating desireable spaces. Using places like Rittenhouse Square and Walnut Street as examples (there are countless more good examples), we can try to shape our future to be a place we want to live.
With the advent of the recent news regarding the Fresh Grocer’s closing, it makes me wonder where the people of New Brunswick will be able to shop for quality produce and groceries. Sure, there are small corner markets and delis throughout New Brunswick, but they do not have the same capabilities like high amount of customers and wide array of services a large grocery store like the Fresh Grocer had. The space that the Fresh Grocer occupied was specifically built for a large commercial grocery store to exist. Therefore, I don’t think that the space will be left unoccupied for a while. WakeFern, the parent company to Shop Rite and Fresh Grocer, has expressed some interest in the space for a Shop Rite to move in, which its pricing is lower than the Fresh Grocer. Regardless of who will replace the Fresh Grocer, it is important for the City of New Brunswick to work hand in hand with the new company so as to prevent the situation that we face now.
The Center for Disease Control labels areas that lack access to affordable nutritional foods like fruits and vegetables as food deserts. Many areas that are home to low-income individuals can be labeled as food deserts. New Brunswick’s median household income is a little above $38k, which is considerably less than the states median income of $67k. It’s a combination of people’s lack of income and the city’s smaller tax base that results in an area that is marred by fast food restaurants and no quality supermarkets. I would not necessarily rate New Brunswick as a food desert, but I think recent events like the Fresh Grocer scandal, will lead New Brunswick into a dark path in terms of quality of life for its citizens.
So how do we solve this unfortunate situation in New Brunswick? There are several steps that can be take by City government as well as the community to improve the current situation. First, City officials need to have better research methods in conjunction with the type of supermarket that will takeover the Fresh Grocer’s spot. One of the main problems with the Fresh Grocer was a lack of foresight with regards to the amount of people that would be using food stamps. A store that is better equipped to handle these types of transactions would be much better for a city like New Brunswick. Second, organizing more frequent farmer’s markets and community gardens will help people become directly involved in the improvement of their city. Community gardens are also a good way to incorporate green space in to the already overcrowded areas of New Brunswick.
Growing up just minutes from Atlantic City, I have seen or at least heard of the decline of the city in terms of financial well being and in general as a tourist attraction. Recently there has been news of casino bankruptcies, including the Revel and Atlantic Club. This trend seems to follow the economic downturn starting in 2006 and the introduction of nearby casinos and online gambling. Being a resident of Atlantic County, this news and downward spiral is an important issue which should be corrected in the near future.
From a once flourishing shore tourism destination, the city’s health has declined, most notably in the success of the casinos. Going into a bit of history for Atlantic City, the area used to draw a large tourism base long before the casinos were established. The boardwalk and beach were the city’s first great assets. Popular attractions of the early 1900’s included the diving horses and other live entertainment on the boardwalk piers. Recently the city has added some popular attractions and events including the Thunder over the Boardwalk air show since 2003 which attracts over 750,000 visitors per year. The new addition of the Tanger Outlets also brings in more people and gets them to spend time and money in the city. It seems perhaps, that in lieu of these new attractions that the problem with the city lies elsewhere.
In 1976 the city passed legislation that would allow gambling in hopes to bring in new revenues, create jobs, and improve the overall quality of the area. As the casino district expanded and grew it reflected in the number of jobs available and influx of cash. Currently “Atlantic City is considered the “Gambling Capital of the East Coast,” and currently has eleven casinos. In 2011, New Jersey’s casinos employed approximately 33,000 employees, had 28.5 million visitors, made $3.3 billion in gaming revenue, and paid $278 million in taxes.” Although these numbers seem to be great, there are some underlying themes of distress. The past eight years have seen the expansion of casinos in other states as well as the introduction of online gambling. All these factors have hurt the Atlantic City scene. With five major resort closures since 1990 and many more canceled projects, it seems that the casino industry is not on track to keep supporting the city. The recent failure of the Revel resort is the epitome of this issue. Opening in 2012, the casino has constantly had losing quarters and is not expected to be profitable until 2017. The value of the casino has dropped from $2.4 billion to $450 million.
So what can be done? While there have been various bailouts and power plays by government officials, there does not seem to be a clear solution to Atlantic City’s issues. According to members of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in a video by USA today, Atlantic City needs to break the barrier between the casinos and its greatest asset, the beach. It does appear that just shifting money around and offering hotel deals will not be enough to correct the tourism decline. Looking at the positive impact of events such as the air show and concerts at Bader Airfield, it seems that people will come to the city given the right attraction. From experience I can say that sports are not the answer as all the city’s teams, at least in my generation, have folded (AC Surf, Boardwalk Bullies, etc.).
One possibility is the redevelopment of Bader Airfield. This area is considered a redevelopment consideration by the city and could be the key to drawing people to the area. In my opinion, the city does not need any more casinos, but rather a large-scale attraction along the lines of an amusement park. While the city is planning something for the site, it can be a crucial decision for the future. The key to this development will be attracting people from local as well as distant locations and keeping them there for a while.
The overall state of food and diet in the US has been an ongoing issue in recent decades leading to obesity and various other health issues. One of the main contributing factors to this issue is a lack of access to fresh, healthy foods. Certainly living up to its official name, the Garden State was found by the Food Research and Access Center to have the lowest national rate of difficulty for accessing affordable fresh fruits and vegetables (December, 2011). Even so, many cities in New Jersey have been referred to as “food deserts,” having only one supermarket that is hardly accessible to all of the city’s residents. Camden is an example of such a city, and is considered by the USDA a food desert. Many question if continuously implementing new supermarkets when old ones fail will be a sustainable solution to the food desert issue, and other routes have been taken to combat the problem, such as the implementation of community gardens. Camden has had a community garden program for almost 30 years, and there are currently about 27 acres of gardens across the city (Jason Laday). The community gardens have been especially successful in creating a culture of actually wanting to eat healthy foods. As volunteers grow and harvest the food themselves, there is often a sense of pride and accomplishment in the work.
What are the urban planning and design factors that will enable community gardens to become a signature part of New Jersey’s food production? New Jersey already has many public gardens, many of which already have community food production programs for interested citizens. Planning initiatives could increase participation in these programs by ensuring that public transportation exists from food desert areas to community gardens. In 2013, Rutgers Gardens implemented a Volunteer Supported Agriculture Vegetable Garden, which allows interested volunteers to devote at least 3 hours per week to tend to the garden, and in return they will receive fresh food when it is ready to be harvested. Citizens of New Brunswick have very few options besides an automobile to travel to Rutgers Gardens, and therefore many do not even know the Gardens exist, let alone the VSA Vegetable Garden program. A new bus route directly to the gardens, or possibly recurring community events for awareness of the volunteer program would help bring awareness and increased participation to Rutgers Gardens, and could possibly create a culture of community gardening in New Brunswick.
Environmental planning gets thrown around a lot. But what exactly is it? Environmental Planning can be defined as future planning for political, economic and social growth and development with consideration towards the natural environment. With that being said there has been many improvements over the years by planners and governments alike towards environmental planning. Although there have been improvements over the years, the increase in population has offset the slight improvements made over the years and the minor changes in policy. In Contemporary Urban Planning, written by John M. Levy, it states that from 1960 to about 2007 the atmospheric carbon dioxide in parts per million has risen from 215 to about 380 ppm. (pg 310) This is completely unacceptable for everyone because it means we are failing our future generations and leaving them with the problem. Immediately the finger is pointed at the planners because it is understood that they plan for the future. Unfortunately there is a lot more to it than just that. Nowadays the big fortune 500 companies have hundreds of lobbyists at congress making sure the laws that are passed are in the best economic interest of the companies which usually do not align with environmental goals or even goals of the individual. Many people think this is outrageous but many are too entwined in their lives and jobs to do anything about it. Protesting may not get much done unless organized to the point of having thousands and thousands of people at the foot of congress to change.
Recently for example, Arizona law makers gave Arizona’s largest utility, Arizona’s Public Service the right to charge people who installed solar panels on their homes. The new law will have these homeowners paying a monthly levy which equals out to be 70¢ per kilowatt of installed capacity. Congress believes the intelligence of the average person to be meager enough to let such atrocities slide by. The only reason they are able to get away with such things is that most people simply do not have time to participate in such governmental activities. There may even be time to participate in local governments that have passed such ordinances but dodgy mayors aligned with the state may deploy cheap tricks by barely advertising town hall meetings and having them at unreasonable times. This is an outrage for many ordinary citizens as this type of tragedy has become more and more commonplace with the rights of people continually taken away slyly by big corporations and suspect government officials. New age planners aligned with the people and positive future development that will benefit everyone not only certain individuals must step up and take charge before it is too late.
An important aspect in planning for the future is also taking into consideration healthy living. Completely isolated suburbs that are only connected through the use of an automobile is dangerous to the wellbeing of a person. There are multiple aspects that must be taken into consideration when there is negative housing sprawl. If there is a lack of community activities along with a community center that organizes games and festivals and activities, the people of the sprawled out town are sapped of social interaction which is vital for mental health. Isolation in the home can have negative effects over time. This can also be seen in prisons but accelerated at a faster pace as the square footage is much smaller. Over time prisoners become distraught which lead to a wide array of mental problems including suicidal thoughts. The suicide rate in prisons ranged from 18 to 40 per 100,000 during the past three decades. This idea for Planning Professionals has not been thought about in such a way that sprawl planning may have something to do with this growing problem. There is about 38,364 suicides every year in the US. It is important to note that most deaths may not be related to a lack of social interaction but it may have something to do with it. “We began to see evidence of this in ‘50s when depression became common among stay-at-home housewives and valium was thought to be the solution.”
It is important than for some professionals in the planning field to break this mind numbing trend that we are dangerously navigating. More and more children are growing up in isolation and not receiving the social interaction needed to grow up and be a healthy adult. Instead children are turning to technology to give them a fragmented version of reality. This is not the type of interaction that adults want their kids to learn from but they have no choice with longer commutes and more traffic keeping families separate from each other. In order to curb this trend planners must examine what we have now currently and what can be done to the community to uplift and change this trend of isolation. Although technology can be seen as a symptom of the problem, it can also be a solution. Community planners must then think of new buildings where community sports can be played such as baseball, softball, football, soccer, tennis, and swimming. The newly designed buildings, if possible can then be connected to the nearby neighborhoods with an ideal walking distance. Technology was also mentioned as a possible help for the future. Planners could work with computer engineers and possibly set up a system that connects to the homes nearby and helps the parents by helping them arrange who is available to take the children to an activity or event. Planners must continue to head in this direction and use the tools around them efficiently if we are to continue to grow as a healthy society.