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Frenchtown gets $1 million grant to enhance streetscape


Frenchtown has been awarded a $1 million grant to improve its downtown streetscape.

The federal money, dispensed by the state Department of Transportation and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, aims to enhance walkability and bicyclist access downtown while enhancing the borough’s charm.

The project area includes commercial portions of Bridge, Race, Harrison, Second, Front and Lott streets and Trenton and Kingwood avenues.

The money will fix heaved sidewalks, install new ADA-compliant curb ramps, buy decorative pedestrian-scale street lights, pedestrian-safety bollards, trees and other plantings, and “street furniture.” such as benches, trash receptacles, bike racks and planters.

Also on the list is signage. This would include wayfinding signs, banners and welcome signs. In 1984 the Frenchtown Business and Professional Association posted five welcome signs on the borough’s perimeter, but only the one on Route 513 remains.

This grant would implement the recommendations made by an ad hoc committee whose members were Councilwoman Caroline Scutt; Kandy Ferree, borough resident and ArtYard’s director of strategy, partnerships and operations;planning board chair Randi Eckel, planning board member Gordon Dragt; and downtown redeveloper Dorsey Reading.

In announcing that the grant would be forthcoming, Mayor Brad Myhre called it “transformational” and said that “the money will go a long way in helping Frenchtown recover from the last August’s fire and also with future business retention and attraction.”

The fire, which started after a truck crashed into a pizzeria’s propane tanks, has left an ugly gap, accentuated by chain-link fencing, at the corner of Bridge Street and Trenton Avenue. Next door, the popular Frenchtown Cafe, damaged by water and fire, is expected to reopen this summer. Dorsey Reading is overseeing that extensive rehab, which aims to make the building look the way it did a century ago.

Meanwhile, don’t look for those streetscape improvements right away.

“The borough will need to work though the program guidelines upon receipt from NJDOT. These guidelines generally range from additional required engineering work, including surveying, acknowledgment of federal program funding guidelines, and review of our plans to ensure they enhance ADA compliance, to name a few” of the steps to be taken, according to the mayor, a man who is not daunted by governmental process.

“My hope is that we will be in a position to move forward by Labor Day 2020. But that will be contingent on federal and state review of our project,” he said.