Main Street in Medford is home to a variety of businesses and annual community events. To help further the street’s economic development and to improve its streetscape, Town Council applied for a State Transportation Alternatives Program grant by its Thursday, Nov. 17 deadline.
According to township manager Kathy Burger, the township planner, Taylor Design Group, attended a seminar discussing this grant earlier in the year. The planner then brought up the idea to apply for the grant to the township staff who then presented it to council. Ultimately, council chose to submit an application for the grant.
By applying for this grant, which was endorsed by the Burlington County Board of Freeholders, the township is hoping to receive about $600,000 to improve the road from where Main Street meets Route 70 to where it intersects with Mill Street.
According to Beth Portocalis of the township manager’s office, the intended municipal improvements would consist of finding ways to expand pedestrian and bicyclist traffic and safety. Ultimately, she said the goal is to make Main Street an attractive destination for residents and visitors alike, rather than it simply being a centrally traveled road.
This effort began a few years ago when Medford developed a bicycle network plan, a circulation system designed to attract increased numbers of people to downtown Medford and other destination points within the township. Through this earlier initiative, the township received a separate $300,000 grant from the state under its Transportation Enhancement Act for the 21st Century grant program, which it will use next spring to begin construction on its transportation transformation along Stokes Road in the preserved Cow Point open space.
As further part of this transformation, sidewalk enhancements designed to repair the original brick sidewalks that were constructed in the early 1980s has remained a priority. Another goal is to retrofit and enhance Main Street’s existing antique lights to establish better lighting and electrical access for the many events held on Main Street. The township also hopes to achieve streetscape uniformity through acquiring matching benches, trash receptacles and bike racks, and to improve wayfaring signage to highlight places such as the community center, municipal building, arts center, library and parking.
“All of the signs and street amenities would have the same style,” Portocalis explained. “Most of the time, when we pick things up for the town, there hasn’t been continuity in ordering. We’ve also had a lot of donated benches, but this uniformity would involve a plan.”
The township would use identified circulation patterns on Main Street to know exactly where benches, signs and bike racks should be placed.
Portocalis also explained that once these elements have been implemented, new businesses could flourish on Main Street. She gave an example that with a new café, offering benches and tables could encourage people walking up and down the street to sit and relax for a few minutes, while also encouraging them to shop at the local business — allowing Main Street to become its own destination within Medford Village and Medford Township.
Although Medford is not modeling its Main Street transformation after any other town, Portocalis said she believes the town is inherently blessed to have historic and walkable downtown Main Street available, and that being a part of the Main Street New Jersey program is helping with its marketing and business recruitment efforts. She also said town council has been instrumental in helping to strengthen Main Street through amending several ordinances to facilitate commercial business on the street. For example, it voted to change a sign ordinance to allow for easier-to-read signs and amended an ordinance allowing breweries to produce and sample craft beer.
“We hope to sustain a lively, engaged Main Street community. We want people to travel from outside of Medford for space, while also increasing local resident traffic through increased pedestrian traffic,” Portocalis said. “Town council definitely wanted to pursue this opportunity and the availability of the grant.”
The township will receive notice sometime in the spring as to whether it is to be awarded the grant. As of now, there is no definitive date when the announcement will be made.