Westport Town Selectman ‘Impressed’ as Town Votes on Master Plan Approval

Article By James Lomuscio of http://www.westportnow.com

UPDATE The Westport Board of Selectmen tonight voted to accept the Downtown Master Plan and to recommend initiating its prioritization and implementation phase.The vote to accept the plan following a presentation in the Town Hall auditorium was two in favor—First Selectman Jim Marpe and Selectman Avi Kaner—and one abstention by Selectman Helen Garten.

She said she was not comfortable with the word “accept,” instead preferring “receive.” A separate vote to recommend initiating the prioritization and implementation phase of the plan was 3-0.

Marpe said acceptance of the plan draft in his mind does not mean “endorsing every element” and that the second resolution regarding implementation was just a guide.

As outlined tonight by Melissa Kane, chair of the Downtown Steering Committee (DSC), the plan’s directives include:

—Reclaim and enhance riverfront access, views and walkways.

—Improve streetscape and landscape attractiveness.

—Enhance and activate public open spaces.

—Enhance pedestrian connections, walkways, and bike paths.

—Enhance connections between key downtown destinations.

—Improve trafic flow and parking management.

WestportNow.com Image

The Westport Board of Selectmen tonight voted 2 in favor and one abstention to accept the Downtown Master Plan. Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com

 Kane said the plan recommends creating an entity, or hiring a person or group to effectively manage and coordinate the implementation process.

“I think without that it’s unlikely that anything else can happen,” she said.

Equally important is that the town “immediately address and potentially completely reorganize the maintenance of downtown,” Kane said.

“This has been an issue for quite some time and should be addressed before we make any capital investments,” she said.

Kane said financing was an important topic of the recommended plan.

“The major funding concept of the Downtown Master Plan is to take advantage of strategic partnerships and not place the burden of improving this part of our infrastructure solely on the taxpayer,” she said.

In her comments on the plan, Garten said she was troubled that there was no figure given for maintenance, not even a ballpark figure.

“To me that’s a red flag because now to mix metaphors, it’s almost like a green light to say we should make new investments when we really don’t have a plan or an expectation or an acknowledgement that new investments require more money,” she said.

Before the meeting, Marpe said he was “very impressed with this final document” of the plan.

“I am looking forward to tonight’s meeting and the presentation by the Downtown Steering Committee and RBA consultants relative to the final version of the Downtown Master Plan,” Marpe said.

“Over a year-and-a-half of hard work has gone into the master planning process along with input from thousands of Westporters who completed the Downtown survey and and who participated in our many different workshops and charettes,” he added.

The DSC is an outgrowth of the Downtown 2020 group launched during the previous administration of First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and chaired by Lou Gagliano.

“I am convinced that the plan reflects the values that Westporters told us were important to them,” said Marpe, “to maintain our small town character, to make downtown more of a place for Westporters to enjoy, to preserve and improve open space and, to complete and improve downtown where needed rather than growing it.”

“It is the master plan that Westport has long needed to help appropriately guide the future direction of an important area of our town over the next decade and beyond,” he added.

Marpe said he was “very impressed with this final document, but also with the way the entire planning effort has proceeded.”

“This approach serves as a model of how complex, major public planning efforts should proceed in order to take a wide variety of data and opinions into consideration,” he said.

Marpe thanked Kane, Town Operations Director Dewey Loselle, who preceded her, and local resident David Lapping, principal of the RBA Group, the Norwalk-based design group that acted as the DSC’s plan consultant.

“Our consultants from the RBA Group, led by Westport resident David Lapping, deserve our deepest thanks as well for their on-going commitment to making this a comprehensive plan and one that points the way to successful implementation,” Marpe said.

RBA Involved in the Kennett Region Smart Growth

Article by Kathleen Brady Shea on July 9th, 2015

Historic Kennett Square, the Borough of Kennett Square and Kennett Township have hired Todd Poole of 4ward Planning and Mark Keener of the RBA Group to study economic development affecting both municipalities. Public involvement will be an integral part of the process to set priorities for where and how the region grows, the continuation of the borough’s revitalization, and the protection of natural, rural and historic heritage.

“Between Historic Kennett Square, Kennett Square, and Kennett Township, we wanted to develop a plan for the future,” Tom Sausen, an Historic Kennett Square board member and chairman of its Economic Development Task Force, said in the release.

Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline, who co-chairs VISTA 2025, the county’s economic development initiative, said the study complements the county’s goals. “The focus of the study – to provide technical data, community consensus and the vision needed to responsibly guide Kennett’s future development – will improve coordination between the municipalities, the public, and the business community.  It will set priorities for where and how the region grows, while protecting its heritage …”

Kennett Township Manager Lisa M. Moore explained the rationale for Kennett Township’s involvement. “We felt it was important to be part of this study since the township totally surrounds the borough,” she said. “It is extremely important that we have an agreeable vision for the areas that border both municipalities.”

4ward Planning and the RBA Group will focus on seven areas with the most potential for innovative, economic development: the State Street corridor; the Cypress Street corridor; Birch Street from Walnut to Broad streets; Millers Hill, the area on the eastern border between the borough and the township; the Ways Lane area in the township; the former NVF site in the borough; and the area on the west side of Mill Road in the township.

Some of the tasks included in the project include reviewing planning documents germane to the county and the local municipalities; interviewing stakeholders, such as residents, municipal officials, developers, and property and business owners; conducting a comprehensive market analysis of the Kennett region; developing an economic development plan of action; conducting three public meetings to garner public input on the economic development of the region; and reviewing the township and borough’s zoning requirements as they relate to the seven focus areas.

“We have high hopes for this,” Sausen said. “These are areas that have a lot of potential for growth. There needs to be a consensus. And the consultants’ job will be to provide some ideas and get that consensus.”


for the full article

NV5 Acquires Infrastructure Engineering Firm the RBA Group, Inc

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that effective July 1, 2015 we have joined NV5 Holdings, Inc. (ENR #124) a publicly traded professional and technical engineering and consulting services corporation, serving public and private sector clients in the infrastructure, energy, construction, real estate and environmental markets. RBA will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of NV5.

NV5 primarily focuses on five business verticals: construction quality assurance, infrastructure, engineering and support services, energy, program management and environmental solutions. The Company operates 29 offices in California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming and is headquartered in Hollywood, Florida.

The Board of Directors and our management team is very excited to join NV5 as a platform for both RBA’s and NV5’s continued expansion into the Northeast market while also expanding NV5’s capabilities in RBA’s additional core services of Civil and Transportation Engineering, Architecture, Environmental, Landscape Architecture, Planning and Construction.

RBA will be the largest part of NV5’s business holdings in the northeast and will be a major contributor to their overall business. By becoming part of NV5, we will be offered the opportunity to accelerate our growth. The interface with other NV5 organizations will also offer us the chance to grow the capabilities of our organization and over the long term, provide our employees with a chance to be part of a strong public company.

Our company structure will largely remain the same with the same management team, offices, client base and key personnel. Neil Bernstein will be reporting directly to Dickerson Wright, PE, Chairman and CEO of NV5.

RBA Recipient at Smart Growth Awards Celebration for Washington Street

Washington Street serves as the traditional “Main Street” and center of vibrant activity and commercial success in Hoboken. It is a popular destination with historical character, wide sidewalks, and a bustling restaurant, bar, and retail scene, all within walking distance of neighborhoods and public transit. With all this going for it, what factors would incite a need to “redesign” such a noteworthy street?

 The City of Hoboken identified deficiencies in the safety, service, and physical condition of Washington Street. Chiefly, this “main street”, which should accommodate multiple modes of transportation, is dominated by automobile traffic and parking at the expense of pedestrian safety and bicycle accommodation, in conflict with the City’s 2010 “Complete Streets” resolution. Its antiquated traffic signals, designed in a configuration not permitted on New Jersey streets since 1948, epitomize Washington Street’s primary shortcoming: it is outdated and does not conform to current standards for safety, accessibility, and multimodal travel. Additionally, the roadway surface and many of the crosswalks and curb ramps are in disrepair, less than 25% of the trees along this 1.3 mile street are in good condition, all stormwater drains to the City’s combined sewer and stormwater system, and poor street lighting contributes to glare and low visibility. All of these factors contribute to a lack of economic growth.

 The contradiction between Washington Street’s prosperous charm and obsolete structure informs the principal challenge of this design project. How can a historical and successful street transform to meet modern design standards while preserving what made it great in the first place? And how can this process be replicated elsewhere?

 As part of a comprehensive approach with extensive community input through open house meetings, exhibits, surveys, and web-based communications, the project identified various “Smart, Green, and Complete” goals for the future of Washington Street.

Subsequently, the project team initiated an extensive design phase that included collaboration among the City of Hoboken, the RBA Group, officials from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), various Hoboken stakeholder groups, and the citizens of Hoboken.

The Complete Street Redesign of Washington Street embraces Smart Growth principles and applies them at a range of scales, while advancing the concept of Complete Streets from mobility-focused to the more inclusive “Smart, Green, and Complete.” The project successfully demonstrates how a comprehensive approach, dependent on community input and support, can expound a progressive future in a place treasured for its historical charm. By rethinking, redesigning, and retrofitting existing street space and infrastructure, the Complete Street Redesign of Washington Street enhances mobility and connections, increases walkability, makes sustainable transportation options more comfortable and attractive, encourages vibrant mixed use, improves resiliency to natural hazards, and boosts environmental quality – all with respect to community character and historic features. With each of these accomplishments, the project supports Smart Growth goals to serve and improve the community, the economy, and the environment, equally, with rousing and measurable benefits for generations to come.

More info can be found at http://www.hobokennj.org/washingtonstreet/

RBA Designated To Set Vision For Old City

A new plan from the Old City District aims to improve the historic neighborhood ahead of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence by identifying development opportunities in the historic Philadelphia neighborhood.

Vision 2015 is a plan for the Old City District that will offer short-term economic and physical development for the historic Philadelphia neighborhood.

Known as Vision 2026, the project is designed to identify potential sites for residential development, address building vacancies, and propose improvements to other public and private spaces.

“The economy is improving and there is already a ton of development happening on its own,” said Job Itzkowitz, executive director of Old City District. “We want to provide a framework to guide that development.”

But, he adds, Vision 2026 is meant as a resource for developers, not a mandate.

“We might identify specific sites, but they are only meant to be examples,” Itzkowitz said. “We aren’t developing anything ourselves, but we will have a document at the end of the day to show someone who asks us what is good in this market. It is a tool we’ll use to provide developers with ideas.”

Vision 2026 is the first plan of its kind for Old City, offering guidance on the short-term economic and physical development of the neighborhood, according to Gregory Diehl, economic development coordinator of Old City District.

The plan will still preserve the existing aesthetics of Old City, home to some of the country’s most significant historic locations like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall – where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

“We want to optimize density without disrupting the historic fabric of the area,” Itzkowitz said. “We don’t want to sacrifice the history.”

There are several projects already in the works for the neighborhood, which the Old City District defines as the 22-block region bounded by Florist, Walnut, 6th and Front streets.

Some of the current and upcoming developments are:

  • $150 million construction of the 32,000 square-foot Museum of the American Revolution
  • Proposed mixed-use redevelopment at the National
  • Proposed 16-18 story building at 205 Race Street
  • Proposed 216-unit residential development at 401 Race Street
  • New townhome construction throughout the district (i.e. Quarry street, 7-Inspire, the Ross Homes)Along with attracting tourists, Old City is a popular nightlife destination. While bars and restaurants bring many people to the area, Itzkowitz said more daytime businesses are also settling in Old City, such as art galleries, consignment shops, and even tech firms.

    “It’s not the rowdy place it has the reputation of being,” he said. “Old City is a great destination for retail, art, business and dining. It’s a great place for just about anything.”

    The Vision 2026 planning committee consists of: RBA Group, an interdisciplinary design firm of planners; Atkin Olshin Schade Architects, a Philadelphia firm that focuses on architecture, planning, and interior design; and Urban Partners, economic development consultants.

    Three firms and a steering committee will take on the bulk of Vision 2026 process. The Old City District is seeking public input and neighbors can attend an open meeting on June 23 at the Arch Street Friends Meeting House. A public survey will also be available on the Old City District’s website next week.

    “The ultimate goal is to improve the economy and capitalize on opportunities that already exist here,” Itzkowitz said.

Article courtesy of Lindsay Castleberry of bizjournals.com

RBA to Design New Phase of Tookany Creek Trail

Plans are progressing for Phase III of the Tookany Creek Trail.  According to the master plan completed in1999, the four-phase project will create a 2.2-mile trail running along Tookany Creek from Central Avenue in Cheltenham Village to High School Park in Elkins Park.

Phases I and II created the existing trail that begins near Central Avenue and ends just before New Second Street in Tookany Park.  Phase III will extend the trail from that point to Harrison Avenue in Elkins Park.

Federal and state grants totaling $663,000 along with a 20 percent match from the township were used to finance the first two phases, according to township manager Bryan Havir.  Phases III and IV will be financed by a $500,000 grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and a $125,000 township match.  Havir said he’s on the lookout for additional grant funding.

Phase III will run through an area of little used public land along the creek. The project’s designer, The RBA Group, presented a revised plan to the commissioners in April.  It includes a 10 foot paved path with a bioswale (vegetated water retention area) to help control runoff and a 135 foot prefabricated footbridge bridge crossing the creek near New Second Street.  An ADA-compliant crosswalk with flashing beacons at New Second Street will connect the trail sections.

The revised plan also includes a path realignment that was needed because the original path was in the creek’s flood plain. The Cheltenham Little League Association agreed to remove their T-ball field at Gimble Park and move a fence at their baseball field to allow for the changes.

In response to neighbors’ concerns voiced at a February public meeting on the project, the township agreed to provide additional security along the path, provide warning signs for flood prone areas, remove heavy debris from the creek, and address the elimination of invasive plants.

Final project designs are expected by September.  The construction start date, which will be influenced by the timeline for area sewer improvements, is uncertain.  More details are available here.

Article by Edie Cerebi, courtesy of citizenscall.net

Long Beach Safety Initiative – The City Lowers Speed Limit to 25 mph on Residential Streets

By JOHN ASBURY of Newsday

A new 25 mph speed limit sign sits at the corner of Park Ave. and Neptune in Long Beach, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa.

The Long Beach City Council has voted to reduce the city’s speed limit to 25 mph on residential and side streets and to synchronize stoplights to keep traffic on its main thoroughfare under 30 mph.

City officials agreed earlier this month to lower the speed limit, unless otherwise posted, to 25 mph, which is the lowest speed possible without state legislation. Some streets — such as the “canal streets,” the “president streets” and parts of the West End — have been lowered to 15 mph.

The council’s move is aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists as part of “The Long Beach Safety Initiative.” The ordinance takes effect as soon as new signs are made and posted, likely in the next few weeks, officials said.

Speed limits had been set at 30 mph on most city streets.

Auto collisions with pedestrians and bicycles have fluctuated in the past three years. There were 27 bicycle crashes and 20 pedestrians struck last year, resulting in two deaths. There was one fatality in 2013, 11 pedestrians hit and 31 bicycle collisions.

The city’s main corridor of Park Avenue will remain at 30 mph, but will now have synchronized stoplights on the street from Riverside Boulevard to New York Avenue. The stoplights were originally set to 35.