Sparta Avenue to undergo facelift

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    SPARTA-Starting this week, motorists can expect minor traffic delays through town because of the streetscape improvements being made to Sparta Avenue, said township engineer Charles Ryan. Sparta police will be on-site to direct traffic from Main Street to Route 517, when Sparta Avenue is reduced to one alternating lane on a limited basis, 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The streetscape improvements will include new curbs, 5-foot concrete sidewalks on each side of the street, modular block retaining walls, new fixtures, drainage and water main work, as well as enhanced landscaping. Township planner David Troast said the project is the third phase of the proposed town center, which is envisioned to include 44 age-restricted housing units and new commercial and retail office space along Main Street on the sites of the former Central restaurant and pizzeria. A $350,000 state grant under the township center designation will fund the "pedestrian-friendly" construction along Sparta Avenue. When completed, about 200 seniors currently living in 180 nearby units will have greater walking access to shopping and other businesses from the Stop-N-Shop to the jug handle near the Citgo service station, said Troast. "Sparta Avenue will have the same look as Main Street," said Troast. "Seniors will eventually be able to walk right into the town center. The hope is that businesses will move into the area and improve their properties as well." Ryan said the project is expected to be completed by October, when work will shift toward Woodport Road and White Deer Plaza. The Sparta Avenue site work was expected to begin June 27, but was rescheduled for July 5, and then delayed until July 11. Sparta officials are still awaiting plans from Novelle Associates, the developer of the proposed town center, that will address regulatory concerns posed by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Officials from Novelle Associates have said they expect to break ground by fall. Sparta officials have been doing their part to move the town center project along. Council members earlier this year amended a zoning ordinance that paved the way for construction of the senior units they believe will generate affordable housing within walking distance to the grocery store, haircutters, the library, banks, shoe store and municipal building. The amended ordinance requires at least one occupant of the senior residential units to be 55 years of age or older and other household members to be over the age of 19. At least 80 percent of the units shall be under three bedrooms. Sparta officials have said the project will bring increased ratables to town without placing an added burden on an already acknowledged overcrowded school system.