McLaren Engineering Group, a full-service firm, has been named a Urban Land Institute (ULI) Northern New Jersey (NNJ) Excellence Award winner as part of the project team that expanded Newark, N.J.’s Capital Improvement Program. McLaren provided the Newark Downtown District (NDD), a privately funded nonprofit organization, with a suite of engineering services to expand its Streetscape Design Project, garnering a ULI win for Best Public/Private Partnership. McLaren’s work included updates to the district’s wayfinding program, design of decorative festival lighting throughout the city and street lighting for previously unimproved sections of the district.
ULI NNJ’s Excellence Awards celebrate the projects and people that have defined the region’s real estate landscape over the past year. McLaren Engineering Group and fellow award winners were honored at a gala on Nov. 7 at the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park, N.J.
“McLaren Engineering Group is proud to be recognized by ULI NNJ for its part in aiding Newark’s steady growth,” said Jeremy D. Billig, P.E., the firm’s president. “The Newark Downtown District relied on us as a trusted partner, to help carry out their capital improvements – integrating more lighting and signage throughout the district.”
Upon initial completion, the program became the largest project in New Jersey to be financed by a special improvement district (SID). The streetscape has encompassed the gateway area of downtown Newark in its entirety, including nearly 600 properties. McLaren, led by Dawson Bloom, vice president of civil engineering, was responsible for a three-tiered improvement plan for the district’s lighting and signage. This included assessments, planning, coordination, design and construction administration services.
“The continuation of this important initiative has taken the program to previously untouched areas of the district,” said Bloom. “Our work has heightened the district’s aesthetic and we are happy to have contributed to the city’s positive, and award-winning, momentum.”
For decorative street lighting, McLaren assessed previously unimproved areas of the district, determined the appropriate light configurations and prepared plans for implementation by PSE&G. To revamp the district’s wayfinding signage, McLaren utilized the city’s GIS data, met with stakeholders, and continues to work closely with the district staff to make recommendations for improvements and updates. To implement festival-style lighting throughout the community, McLaren worked closely with the district to pinpoint appropriate locations and developed lighting concepts.
“Beautification resulting from the NDD Streetscape, which included the expertise of McLaren Engineering Group, has positively impacted Newark’s downtown,” said Anthony McMillan, CEO of the Newark Downtown District. “Visitors are now able to walk through a vibrant, colorful district with benches, seasonal flowers and decorative streetlamps. This project has created a recognizable and inviting environment that boosts the city’s economy.”
Over a decade ago, the streetscape became a milestone for New Jersey’s most populous city. In May 2007, the NDD Board of Trustees approved $17.5 million in financing to transform 110 city blocks. The type and scope of this capital improvement for public streets had only been done a handful of times in the U.S. – including Grand Central Partnership and 34th Street Partnership in New York City, and the Center City District in Philadelphia.
The project was initially jumpstarted by $10 million in bonds from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). The financing was assembled in a cooperative effort between the Cory Booker administration, the Newark Municipal Council and the NDD. Phase One of the streetscape touched every block of the district, with improvements including planters, benches, trash receptacles, tree pits, decorative light poles, signage and granite corner treatments.
The wider project team recognized by ULI NNJ includes architects at Stantec Consulting and contractor, Berto Construction.