The Blackwood West area is a section of Gloucester Township that is a major focus of revitalization. The Township is trying hard to improve the area and storefronts.
The Blackwood West Redevelopment Plan is a comprehensive revitalization program for this traditional commercial center and its nearby neighborhoods in west central Gloucester Township.
The Redevelopment Plan’s core strategy is to:
- Accomplish the Redevelopment Plan primarily through mixed-use buildings and mixed site development.
- Attract “empty nesters” and “young professionals” through appealingly designed housing.
- Utilize public-private partnerships and financial incentives to develop needed infrastructure.
- Promote a pedestrian orientation and “Main Street” destination.
- Capitalize on the historic status of Blackwood West and its location along state and county highways.
The Redevelopment Plan’s objectives are:
• The removal of deteriorated and obsolete structures that by their blighting influence adversely affect the business climate and neighborhood vitality in Blackwood West.
• Provide new customers for existing local businesses.
• Create a nucleus of redevelopment to stimulate new businesses.
• Minimize disruption to and relocation of existing businesses and residents in the implementation of the Redevelopment Plan.
• Encourage private investment for adaptive reuse of existing key commercial buildings that form the basis for the Blackwood West Historic District.
• Encourage the substantial renovation or replacement of existing substandard or obsolete single and multi-family housing.
• Facilitate the development of high quality housing types not presently offered in Gloucester Township.
• Expand the use of Blackwood Lake as an amenity for the community.
• Improve the functionality of streets and parking.
• Provide for pedestrian access from neighborhoods to businesses and public recreation.
Streetscape Standards Trees, Plantings, and Open Space
1. Maintain the canopy effect of mature deciduous shade trees throughout the streets of Blackwood West.
2. Maintain the existing plantings in all public areas, especially indigenous species. Improve maintenance and expand use of seasonal color in plantings in parking lots.
3. Replace damaged or missing street trees with appropriate species. Use indigenous and hardy species that require minimal maintenance, but contribute to the visual and spatial quality of the streetscape.
4. Expand the use of portable planters. Locate them so that they do not block sidewalks and remove them in winter months when they are empty.
Pedestrian Walks and Curbs
1. Utilize a decorative design plan for the sidewalks.
2. Avoid excessive curb cuts for vehicular access across pedestrian ways. Where curb cuts are necessary, mark them with a change in materials, colors, texture, or grade.
3. Avoid blocking the sidewalk with too many street furnishings and remove obsolete signs and poles.
4. Utilize distinctive crosswalks at key intersections or crossings, where permitted by the approving jurisdiction.
5. Install barrier-free ramps where necessary throughout the commercial area.
6. Seek opportunities to link important pedestrian areas of activity.
Signals and Utilities
1. Place utilities underground if at all possible or locate behind buildings. Screen surface equipment.
2. Place necessary utilities such as transformers and overhead wires so that they are visually unobtrusive as possible.
3. Encourage the location of dumpsters and trash storage areas to be as unobtrusive as possible.
Street Furniture and Lighting
1. Use pedestrian-scaled, traditionally styled light fixtures that are consistent with the public light fixtures specified for downtown.
2. Provide increased illumination at critical areas of pedestrian/vehicular conflict such as parking lots, alleys, and crosswalks.
3. Provide outlets on light standards for seasonal lighting and brackets for hanging banners and decorations for special events.
4. Continue to use traditional designs for trash containers in the district, possibly matching other street furniture.
5. Place benches at key locations in the district. Use traditional designs constructed of wood or cast iron in accordance with the benches specified for use within the downtown area.
6. Continue to make any existing and future street furniture, such as newspaper boxes, telephone booths, bicycle racks, drinking fountains, planters, and bollards, compatible in design, color, and materials with existing elements.
The Mayor, Code Enforcement Officials, Officers from the Police Department, and other department heads walked through the region inspecting the area near the Black Horse Pike on June 28th, 2010. Notes of needed improvements were taken and letters are being sent to the owners of the properties that need improvement. Issues with locations included high weeds, broken windows, poor or no lighting, trash and debris, mold, raised sidewalks, uneven asphalt, unpainted exterior, and poor siding. The goals are to improve the area, which will hopefully spur economic development and interest in the Blackwood West region.
A program that can be used by local businesses to improve their appearance is the Blackwood Façade Improvement Program. If businesses take advantage of this program, then it can revitalize the Blackwood West area.