By ERIN ROLL
The traffic circle and the fountain at the intersection of Valley Road and Church Street will be getting a much-needed makeover.
Montclair has entered into an agreement with landscape architects Arterial for improvements to the circle and the fountain, that in Montclair’s early days was a centerpiece to the town.
The fountain in the center of the circle has not been operational for about six years. And area residents are now concerned that the fountain runs the risk of becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the summer months.
Valley Road resident Michael Stahl told the council on June 25 that the area around the circle has become run down over the last six years during the development of first Valley and Bloom and now the hotel. He suggested that maybe a neighboring developer write a check to get the fountain up and running again.
“A few years back, my wife planted flowers around the fountain, while the developers do nothing,” he said.
Now Stall’s wish has been answered. The township received $40,000 from LCOR, the owners of Valley and Bloom, as part of the Valley and Bloom site plan approval to make design improvements to the traffic circle.
The improvements will include a $10,000 public art component, as well.
The resolution approving the contract with Arterial for the renovations was unanimously approved at the June 25 council meeting.
A public bid was not required for the project, as the costs came in under the bid threshold.
Township communications officer Katya Wowk said that Arterial had not yet submitted a plan, so the exact details of the project, including modifications to the traffic flow or the nature of the public art component, were not available.
However, Wowk confirmed that the fountain will be put back in use.
In addition, traffic and pedestrian flow should be improved. “The design should create a seamless link and safe pedestrian connection to the South Park Street/Church Street area,” she said.
Traffic flows counterclockwise through the circle. There are three pedestrian crosswalks immediately north, west and east of the circle.
The road also is also in need of repaving due to water and sewer upgrades under the roadway.
Laura Torchio, a Montclair resident who is active with the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition and Bike and Walk Montclair, said she has many fond memories of the fountain and the surrounding area.
“My friends and I would hang out on Church Street and walk to the fountain and put our bare feet in. We’d splash, talk and people watch. It was great. Over the years, I’ve been sad to see it in disrepair,” Torchio said.
The fountain has had some pop-up uses over the years, such as ice sculpture carving during First Night celebrations, Torchio recalled.
The Church Street area has become a major destination, along with the surrounding area of South Park Street, Bloomfield Avenue, Glenridge Avenue and Willow Street.
“My hope for the revitalization of this place is that it puts people first, keeps car traffic slow, supports people who walk and roll, and helps to foster community well-being,” Torchio said.