PARSIPPANY — Hidden inside the sprawl of interstate highways, office parks and distinctly separate neighborhoods, the section of North Beverwyck Road that makes up downtown Lake Hiawatha is sometimes overlooked as a shopping and dining destination.
Hoping to improve amenities for area residents and lure more visitors to economically starved businesses, Mayor Michael Soriano on Tuesday announced a combined $4 million in upcoming investments in the district.
The money, from grants, will cover a variety of projects, including streetscaping, the purchase of open space off Knoll Road and nearly $3 million to expand and modernize the local branch of the Parsippany Library System.
“North Beverwyck Road is an economic, cultural and historic hub of Parsippany,” Soriano said during a public announcement in a parking lot across the street from Kebab Paradise, one of many popular restaurants along the two-lane road. “Areas like this embody the spirit of American commerce. Small, family-owned businesses living in a walkable Main Street alongside a significant residential neighborhood.”
Previous administrations embarked on various streetscaping projects over the past 20 years to improve the downtown area, a collection of small shopping centers and separate one- and two-story buildings. Lighting and pavers were added to the sidewalk, although little was done to address a lingering need for parking.
Soriano’s plans include making downtown “a more walkable destination.”
His administration conducted a walkability study in partnership with the College of New Jersey to identify priorities. Recently obtained county and state and federal grants were obtained to address those priorities.
“Over the course of the last month, we have been awarded $350,000 towards streetscaping improvements on North Beverwyck Road, $650,000 towards the acquisition of an 8-acre open-space parcel along Knoll Road and $3 million towards the construction of a new Lake Hiawatha Library,” Soriano said.
The New Jersey FY2021 Municipal Aid Grant award of $351,700 will underwrite Phase 1 of the North Beverwyck streetscaping. This phase will widen sidewalks, improve traffic management, install new infrastructure “and advance other aspects to the benefit of North Beverwyck Road’s mobility, aesthetics and economic activity.”
“As a resident of Parsippany for the last 32 years, and as a business owner in this great town for the last 20 years, I have seen our community go under many changes,” said Kebab Paradise owner Fahim Saleh. “Our town has not only become more populated, but today, it’s found to be more diverse. With the increased population and bigger demand for different businesses in our town, the time has come to reinvest and give this town the face-lift its people deserve.”
The township also won a Morris County Open Space Grant of $659,000 to acquire a 5.4-acre tract of land along Knoll Road. That purchase will complete municipal acquisition — 30 years in the making — of 30 acres of contiguous open space to create Henry N. Luther Park, which will be Parsippany’s 32nd and largest municipal park.
The park, named after a former Parsippany mayor and the father of another, will have direct access to the proposed Boonton Reservoir Trails Project.
“Grant funds do not automatically appear,” Soriano said. “Our receipt of this capital is the culmination of months and years of hard work and dedication by our township staff and professionals.”
The largest grant, an award of $3 million from the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, is earmarked specifically for the construction of a new library branch in Lake Hiawatha. The construction will also include critical technology upgrades.
The Lake Hiawatha branch, opened in 1934 and renovated in 1994, is part of a three-branch library system.
“Many things have changed since that time,” said Parsippany Library Board Chair Ellen Waldman. “But the branch today is more a community library than ever.”
“I’m confident the combination of infrastructure, recreation and beautification that will come with these acquisitions will be felt in this neighborhood’s economic growth in the years to come,” Soriano said.
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William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on Morristown Daily Record: Parsippany’s Lake Hiawatha district to get $4 million in improvements