As Ortley Beach continues to recover its tax base nearly seven years after gaining the infamous title of “ground zero” for Superstorm Sandy’s wrath, Toms River officials are taking the first step toward implementing a plan that could help transform the neighborhood’s business district.
The township council this week awarded a $188,348 to NV5, a national civil architectural firm based in Florida with multiple offices in New Jersey. The firm will prepare a preliminary design, final design and provide construction services assistance for the state Transportation Alternatives Design Assistance Grant, which could provide up to $1.5 million in funding.
The streetscapes plan as envisioned by the township was largely developed with input from members of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association. The township previously hired an engineering firm, Maser Consulting, to help draw up plans to beautify the neighborhood through several small projects that would add to the aesthetic charm of Ortley Beach. The new contract will be the actual, architectural design of that plan now that it has been chosen for the next round of funding.
The streetscape plan will include new signage entering and exiting Ortley Beach on Route 35 and Bay Boulevard – an “arbor gate,” officials have said – and new plantings and signage around the community. The signage is intended on developing an identity, or brand, of the neighborhood and even having art-inspired sculptures or other pieces to denote landmarks. There could also be water features and pleasant lighting.
The plan is also intended to help differentiate Ortley Beach from Lavallette, recognizing that it is a separate island community. An idea from the taxpayer group was to use the dolphin logo from the water tower to mark the boundaries of the neighborhood to give Ortley its unique “brand.” Other ideas have included lantern lighting for the Route 35 business district and better accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Paul Jeffrey, of the OBVTA, said he was proud of the partnership between his organization and the township council – and he hopes, of course, that the plane under development will be fully funded so it can come to fruition.
“It’s one thing to get the grant approved, but it’s another thing to get the money,” Jeffrey said.