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New Jersey By Design: Five Visionary Projects for Rebuilding After Sandy

The teams have been working with public officials and community members in each region and have started holding public meetings not only to present their preliminary findings to residents and other stakeholders, but also to gain feedback from residents.

None of the teams were ready to offer cost estimates for their projects. They have until March to develop final drawings and plans, which will then be reviewed by a panel of judges that will include Donovan; several academics focused on environmental and design issues; and representatives from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Urban Land Institute, and the American Institute of Architects. A recommendation will then be forwarded to Donovan, who will make the final decision.. The winning project will be eligible for Community Development Block Grant funding, though the final amount of the award has not been determined.

While one project will be selected, Ovink said that all 10 plans will be available, and local, state, and federal officials will be able to continue exploring whether they can be put into practice.

What follows are descriptions of the five New Jersey teams and their goals:

Coastal Commercial Financing : Asbury Park

HR&A – along with Cooper, Robertson & Partners; Grimshaw Architects; Alamo Architects; Langan Engineering; W Architecture; Hargreaves Associates; and Urban Green Council – is working on a design that will look to develop a new economic model for the Jersey Shore. The idea is to leverage rebuilding money to both create physical defenses and put in place better financing models that can help pay for the defenses and needed upgrades as the rebuilding effort moves forward.

Focusing on Asbury Park, which has 200,000 square feet of commercial, retail and entertainment, the team is looking for ways to generate more revenue for local businesses so that they can pay for the improvements that are needed.

The HR&A plan will create a set of design options and strategies that the city and the business community can use to protect themselves from future storms. And it also will seek ways to help the city expand its prime business season beyond the traditional three-month tourist season.

HR&A partner Jamie Torres Springer said his team’s plan is likely to have four components:

  • Building more organizational capacity for merchants, which could include expanding existing merchants associations and official business districts or creating new ones to ensure that there are officials in place dedicated specifically to building business and to making sure that businesses are ready for future weather events.

  • Building physical defense systems -- which could take the form of new floodgates; installation of back-flow preventers to keep sewers from backing up; and elevating mechanical operations like heating and air-conditioning, computers, and other systems.

  • Creating new flood-prevention systems, which could include walls and hardened edges or other efforts, to prevent Deal Lake and Wesley Lake from flooding the city from the north and west.

  • Growing the retail economy and expanding it into the fall and winter months so that there is more money available to businesses to keep them viable and to help them pay for needed improvements.

The plan is currently in the early stages. Final details, including cost estimates, are not expected before March, but Springer and HR&A Director Ryan LeVasseur both said that there are many “opportunities for investment” in the city that build on the “rebirth along the waterfront” and along Cookman Avenue and the historic downtown.

“There is a great opportunity to leverage the recent (real estate) investments to strengthen the town’s overall economy,” LeVasseur said. “This is about getting people back to the Shore and getting people back more often in times when it is not the height of beach season. That will help make it more affordable to be more resilient.”

“This is something that will be important across the region,” Springer said. “If you are standing still, you are only trying to protect what you have. But if you are expanding, there are a lot of interesting design ideas and opportunities.”

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