The township of Cranford, situated 15 miles from New York City on NJ TRANSIT’s Raritan Valley Line, has been focusing on downtown issues for over two decades since it gained the first state-designated downtown Special Improvement District (SID) in the 1980s. Designated a Transit Village by the NJ Department of Transportation in 2003, the township has focused in the past few years on realizing plans developed in the early 1990s for a Victorian-themed streetscape redesign, and subsequent plans to prioritize downtown redevelopment and business recruitment. These plans included several pedestrian safety initiatives and transit-friendly developments in the downtown.
One of these efforts, a redevelopment project called Riverfront, is currently underway, and promises to bring more businesses and housing into downtown. The Riverfront project would revitalize a nearly three-acre site bordered by South Avenue, High Street and Chestnut Street that included a warehouse, an abandoned gas station, and a junk yard. In December 1998, the site was identified as an area in need of redevelopment. Located between the Cranford station and the Rahway River, Riverfront will provide new retail, condominium, and office space.
In late 2008, Cranford signed a redevelopment agreement with Garden Homes, which made numerous presentations to the community regarding the details of the project’s progress and design. Current plans call for 106 housing units (including 16 COAH-designated units to meet affordable housing requirements), 22,000 square feet of retail space, 14,000 square feet of office space, and two large public plazas—one along the Rahway River and another between the planned mixed-use buildings on South Avenue. Garden Homes has been preparing detailed engineering and architectural drawings, as well as working on environmental permits in cooperation with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, due to the site’s proximity to the Rahway River. Construction is expected to begin in the next 12 to 18 months.
Another large piece of Cranford’s effort to develop around transit is the award-winning Cranford Crossing project, recently completed by Westminster Communities. The mixed-use development features 50 condominiums, 22,000 square feet of retail space, and a large municipally owned parking garage providing over 300 parking spaces to commuters, shoppers, retailers, and residents. Located just a block from the station, Cranford Crossing is the largest downtown development project undertaken in Cranford in a century and is located at the center of the township’s SID. Currently, 30 percent of Cranford Crossing’s retail space has been filled, and two businesses are in negotiations for space. The project’s housing has been an unquestioned success–when still under construction, the developer had a list of over 1,300 interested parties for the 50 rental units. As of April 2009, 48 out of 50 units were rented.