Update on dressing up Brunswick Pike shared with Lawrence residents

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The one-mile-long section of Brunswick Pike, between Lake Drive and the Brunswick Circle, is a hodgepodge of cracked sidewalks, grassy strips of varying widths between the curb and the sidewalk—and sometimes none at all.

But that could change, based on a concept plan unveiled before the Lawrence Township Growth and Redevelopment Committee at its Feb. 11 meeting. About a dozen neighborhood residents attended the session.

The concept plan, created by the planning consulting firm of Clarke Caton Hintz, suggested installing cobblestone pavers between the sidewalk and the curb, dressing up the roundabout at Brunswick Pike and Whitehead Road, and landscaping the grass median that divides Brunswick Pike into two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes.

Planner Michael Sullivan told the committee and the attendees that the firm had been working on the project for the past six months, in collaboration with Lawrence Township officials and staff.

Project manager Geoffrey Vaughn said the consultants had walked the one-mile-long stretch of Brunswick Pike to get a sense of the character of the existing streetscape.

Vaughn described sidewalks cracked by tree roots, grassy strips between the sidewalk and the curb, and overhead power lines on one side of Brunswick Pike that cross over to buildings on the other side of the street.

Brunswick Pike, between Lake Drive at the northern end and the Brunswick Circle at the southern end, consists of a four-foot-wide shoulder and two 11-foot-wide travel lanes on Brunswick Pike southbound. On the northbound side, there is an eight-foot-wide parking area and two 11-foot-wide travel lanes.

Based on their study of the area, Vaughn and Sullivan outlined several design principles – increasing pedestrian safety, developing a sense of place through landscaping, and incorporating low-maintenance shade trees and plantings.

To improve pedestrian safety, Vaughn suggested replacing the asphalt brick-look crosswalks with white, painted crosswalks. The painted crosswalks are more visible and are easier to maintain. They do not wear out, unlike the stamped asphalt brick-look crosswalks that are in place now, he said.

Vaughn also said pedestrian-activated flashing yellow lights at crosswalks would help to alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians.

To create a sense of place, Vaughn said the grass areas between the sidewalk and the curb could be replaced with cobblestone pavers to provide a more uniform look.

The “restaurant block,” north of Slack Avenue that is occupied by Dominic’s Pizza, the Route 1 Diner and Leonardo II’s, could also get new sidewalks and trees along the frontage on Brunswick Pike. Landscaping that would screen the parking lots from view also could be planted.

Decorative street lights, benches and bus shelters also would unify Brunswick Pike, he said. Trees that are native to the region and that would be low maintenance also could be planted.

Ground cover plants could be planted in the median between the northbound and southbound lanes of Brunswick Pike to replace the grass, which would also reduce maintenance. Cobblestone pavers could be installed at the ends of each median.

Vaughn and Sullivan offered several ideas to enhance the roundabout at Whitehead Road. It is a large traffic circle that is filled with gravel in the center, and surrounded by pavers.

The planning consultants said the gravel area in the middle of the roundabout could be filled with wind turbines. Flowers and low plants could be installed to soften the look of the 35-foot-tall wind turbines.

“This is all very conceptual,” Vaughn said. “We could make the roundabout an icon or a landmark. The wind turbine could power some of the lights. It would help to bring some scale to the area.”

Sullivan was quick to point out that the overall plan has not been fully developed, and that these are ideas to investigate. Changes would not be made without feedback from property owners and residents, he said.

“We hope it will be beneficial to the property owners and the residents,” Sullivan said, before opening up the session for residents’ comments.

Most of the attendees were supportive of the concept plan. Some raised questions about pedestrian safety and speeding on Brunswick Pike.

Sullivan said that planting trees – especially in the median – would help to reduce speeding. “It’s a visual thing,” he said, adding that drivers would slow down if large trees were planted in the median.

One resident said planting trees along the frontage of the restaurants would make it harder to safely get out of the parking lot because they would block the view of oncoming traffic.

“I applaud you for this.This is wonderful. I love the roundabout, but I want to caution you about what you plant” because of visibility issues, another resident said.

Another resident, however, was skeptical about the concept plan. He said he had not heard anything about how to enhance the businesses along Brunswick Pike in the study area.

“The whole idea” of the Brunswick Pike Redevelopment Area, which dates to the mid-1990’s, was to revitalize the businesses along that stretch of Brunswick Pike, he said.

The times have changed, he said, and the focus is for live/work/play. People want to work and play where they live, he said. Perhaps the planning consultant and the Growth and Redevelopment Committee could consider it, he said.

When another resident asked about the timeline for the project, Lawrence Township Councilman Christopher Bobbitt said it would depend on funding. The planning study was funded by a grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.