The Borough of Bradley Beach sought planning assistance to explore economic and design issues in support of revitalizing its Main Street commercial corridor. The central business district has traditionally thrived based on its rich variety of restaurant offerings, which attract a regional audience on a year round basis. However, that pattern has eroded in recent years, and the district is in need of new strategies for its economic survival.
Located in coastal Monmouth County, Bradley Beach is seven tenths of a square mile in area. It is bordered by one mile of publicly accessible ocean front beaches and has a coastal lake at each end. It supports a full time population of nearly 5000 residents and hosts a large influx of summer visitors. Much of its history reflects development activity in nearby areas, with particular connections to Ocean Grove and Asbury Park. Main Street runs north south along the full length of the municipality. It is situated parallel to the NJ Transit North Coast rail line with a passenger station at the center of the district; the roadway portion is controlled by NJDOT as part of the state highway network. Development along Main Street consists largely of one and two story structures, many of them converted from previously residential use. There is a significant amount of off-street surface parking along Main Street, much of it served by wide curb cuts on the State highway system. Several physical characteristics come to bear on the proposed investigation of potential design and development scenarios for the central business district:
- Although Main Street is both zoned for and developed with commercial uses along most of its length, conditions vary in immediately adjoining areas. The eastern portion of the district, typically one lot in depth, abuts single family residential neighborhoods, whose proximity creates concern when new development is proposed. Alternatively, many properties along the west side of Main Street are bounded to the rear by a mixture of land-locked lots, some of which are former industrial uses, and these in turn are situated along the local rail corridor. As a result, it appears that the western side of the Main Street corridor presents greater potential for mixed-use multistory development patterns that would reinforce a healthy, appropriately scaled, business district.
- Within the general business zone, there are several distinctive nodes of commercial and civic activity. Traditional retail uses are clustered in midtown near the train station, as well as near the southern end anchored by a cinema and several well established restaurants. Automotive service uses dominate the northern edge of the district, while civic uses occupy various sites along its length. This mixture of existing conditions suggests an opportunity to develop planning strategies that differentiate the various areas and foster appropriate responses for new development.
- In addition to the conditions noted above, plans for the Main Street are potentially impacted by conditions immediately outside of the area. The district is bordered to the west by the North Coast rail line and then by a four-lane county road, Memorial Drive. Two other municipalities share this border with Bradley Beach, namely Neptune City and Neptune Township. The Bradley Beach Train Station sits central to the area. The potential for transit-oriented development clearly impacts each of the three communities, and would also require a dialogue with County partners in order to strengthen connectivity at Memorial Drive for pedestrians and cyclists.
Bradley Beach was looking to examine the following topics:
- Economic models to support reinvestment in the Main Street corridor,
- Design strategies to support low to mid-rise mixed use development,
- Scale issues to foster and protect existing residential neighborhoods,
- Commitment to safe travel on state and county roadways,
- Access to regional tourist destinations and services, balanced with sustainable impact on local resources, and
- Collaborative planning with neighboring communities.
The Planning Process
The planning process began with the APA-NJ volunteer planners meeting with town officials to review of the needs for the Main Street corridor. Then on August 2, 1012 the APA-NJ team held a public meeting with the Planning Board’s Master Plan Subcommittee and the general public. At that meeting the team presented their suggested issues to be explored to meet the town’s goals. The issues included:
- The Public Realm, including building forms, shade, ground level uses/buildings, undesirable uses (blank walls, front yard parking lots), open space/parks, by place type and corridor, and venues for programming events.
- Mobility, including bike lanes, bike racks, paths to destinations, sidewalks and cross-walks, parking, and passenger rail.
- Local Market Conditions, including the mix of convenience & specialty retail, the two or three drivers of consumer traffic on Main Street, and the level of diversity for local and seasonal consumers.
- Opportunities in each of these areas fro revitalizing Main Street.
The Bradley Beach Project was done by Linda Weber and Todd Poole of 4WARD Planning Consultants.