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Saturday, June 15, 2024

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Food Court in Washington St. Mall?

By Jack Fichter

CAPE MAY — A Washington Street Mall with a café food court in the center?
That is the vision of the city’s Revitalization Committee.
Tom Carroll, a committee member, updated the board of directors of the Taxpayers Associa-tion of Cape May at a Feb. 17 meeting on ideas the committee will offer to city council.
A concept for the mall from the committee was to create what would appear to be a roadway with a different paving surface than the rest of the mall, with trees on either side, with cafes connected to restaurants on the mall.
Carroll said that idea was paired with possibly developing the center of the mall and having cafes with open courtyards.
“As you can probably imagine, the people that do have restaurants and cafes on the mall weren’t too hot about the idea of having to serve in the center,” he said.
Carroll said he visited an outdoor mall in Charlottesville, Va. with a center café area. He said food providers in that location opened after the mall was constructed and served mostly take-out food.
Most restaurants on the Washington Street Mall use servers, said Carroll.
He said the revitalization committee met with Atlantic City Electric about removing three large electrical transformers from the pavement of the Washington Street Mall at the city’s ex-pense “because they function where they are.”
“Just because we don’t like them there doesn’t mean we can put that bill on Atlantic City Electric,” he said.
A transformer near Our Lady Star of the Sea Church could be eliminated, said Carroll. The middle block of the mall has two pavement-mounted transformers.
Putting those transformers underground would cost more than $1 million, said Carroll. For $750,000, the transformers could be moved behind Casales Shoe Store in an open area, he said, but that could spoil the view from the area of the Rotary Bandstand.
For $250,000, the transformers could be reduced to a 9-foot by 9-foot enclosed area. The en-closure could become an architectural feature of an information center or directory of stores, he suggested.
Carroll said the committee suggests raised gardens and back-to-back benches.
The mall is currently 50-feet wide from storefront to storefront, he said. Cafes are currently al-lowed to extend 10-feet from a storefront but Carroll said most extend out 17 feet.
With 10 feet in the center, 10 feet in front of stores on either side, room is still available for walkways on either side of the center of the mall which would place walkers 10 feet from store windows.
The center food court concept would be turned over to a design team, he said. Carroll said a number of little improvements have happened in Cape May over time which don’t work well together.
“The mall is kind of a museum of taste,” he said, with a smile.
Work on the mall is set to begin in late October.
Carroll said he believed total access to the mall would not be blocked during construction.
Mayor Jerome Inderwies, at a Feb. 21 city council meeting, said the café courtyard concept for the mall “was false information” and “it will not happen,” when questioned by Councilman William G. Gaffney.
“It was talked about at one time, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Inderwies. “I’m going to tell you that it will not happen.”
“It sends a chill down my spine when I think that maybe that we will maybe moving trans-formers on the mall, a mammoth job, and changing the food service,” said Gaffney. “These are the things this council should be aware of.”
He said he shouldn’t have to hear of those projects sitting in the audience of a taxpayers asso-ciation meeting.
“Before a dime is spent on that mall, this council and the public will have input,” replied Inderwies.
Contact Fichter at (609) 886-8600, ext. 30, or Jfichter@cmcherald.com

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