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The Record, Saturday, March 24, 2001

Municipal complex seen
ushering Heights rebirth

Staff Writer

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS -- Mayor William Torre wants to see the Boulevard framed by brick sidewalks and lit by antique-style streetlamps reminiscent of the 1890s.

And he wants to see the Boulevard crowded with window shoppers or people sipping espresso in a coffee shop.

But before all that, he wants to see the new municipal complex built.

"We're hoping the municipal building will be the catalyst for redevelopment," Torre said. "We're going to start from scratch."

Officials are still months away from breaking ground on the $10.2 million municipal building on the Boulevard between Central and Madison avenues, but as they continue the process of planning and constructing it, they are also looking at what will surround it.

Next month, the Planning Board is scheduled to review a report prepared by Burgis Associates Inc., which outlining possible changes to the Boulevard, including bringing various types of stores into the area to attract patrons day and night.

Instead of the place where people take care of their errands, Torre wants the Boulevard to be a destination spot for casual dining and shopping.

Thomas Meli, president of the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce, believes the borough is on the cusp of exciting change. The Boulevard is without an anchor tenant -- a high volume business such as a department store or movie theater -- that will bring people to the area.

However, as the area surrounding the new municipal building is gradually upgraded, Boulevard will be a more desirable destination for such an anchor, Meli said.

"This is really a question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg," Meli said. "The whole tie-in to do Boulevard improvements with the new municipal building seems natural. Stores should benefit from people going in and out of the municipal building. We don't see it as an anchor tenant, but we do view it as a primer."

The building is also expected to set the architectural tone for the downtown area. Torre, Meli, and other officials have discussed ideas to encourage the shop owners to remodel their buildings to fit in with the municipal building.

"Some of those buildings date back to the 1800s," Meli said. "What we want to recommend is to enhance the existing architecture, to give the area a nice, unique, clean look."

The two-floor, 28,000-square-foot municipal complex, which will house the public library, a senior center, and municipal offices, is tentatively scheduled for groundbreaking in September.

According to the plans, the complex will have 28 parking spaces, but Anthony Iovino, the project architect, said the spaces were decided by factoring the size of the structure, the number of municipal employees, and the number of regular gatherings.

A cul-de-sac will be built at the intersection of Boulevard and Central Avenue, cutting off direct vehicle access between the two streets. Madison Avenue will be the main driving route, but people will be able to park on the Boulevard and walk into the building, Iovino said.

Officials plan to review traffic and parking issues a year after construction is completed and make revisions if warranted.


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