ATLANTIC CITY — The city is awaiting approval for grant funding from the state to begin work on a streetscape project designed to improve the evolving business district on Tennessee Avenue.
An application for a $1 million municipal aid grant has been submitted to the state Department of Transportation to help finance a portion of the Tennessee Avenue streetscape project. The city has requested funding from the DOT’s Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program for one-block area of Tennessee Avenue between the Boardwalk and Pacific Avenue.
The grant would match a $1 million fund reservation from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which will be used as leverage to meet requirements and qualify with the state.
“Several new businesses have opened on Tennessee Avenue recently and more are planned, making this area a perfect model for what can be done by visionary entrepreneurs,” wrote Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. in an August letter to CRDA detailing the city’s position. “This investment in the Tourism District of Atlantic City is exemplary but to ensure success, the infrastructure in this area must be enhanced.”
The CRDA Executive Board questioned what the plan was for the Tennessee Avenue streetscape project before approving the funding. Atlantic City Department of Planning and Development Acting Director Bob Preston told the board that, to this point, only a cost estimate and concept had been created. Preston explained that a portion of the grant money would be used to pay for professional services to create a more detailed plan.
Maser Consulting provided a preliminary cost estimate of $1.97 million. The city’s proposed streetscape project, although yet to be designed, is envisioned to include repaving of the road, 24 decorative LED lights, trees and planters, signage, decorative sidewalks, bike racks, trash and recycling containers, improved access for those with disabilities, thermoplastic crosswalk striping and other improvements to make Tennessee Avenue more visually appealing.
Prior to the CRDA voting to approve the city’s request for funding, several people representing various businesses on Tennessee Avenue, including Leadership Yoga Studio, Pic-a-lilli Pub, Amina Africa Hair Braiding, Made Chocolate Shoppe, Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, Howard Johnson, Perry’s Café and Deli, and Hong Kong House, implored the board to support the project. Evan Sanchez, co-owner of Hayday Coffee, and Father John Thomas from St. Nicholas Church were also among those who spoke in favor of CRDA approving the funding.
“There are businesses that have been on the block for over 40 years, 50 years… and other businesses that are about to open in (the second quarter) of 2019,” said Sanchez. “So, you take the old and the new, and we’re working collaboratively as a team to build a better block for a better Atlantic City, to create a scale-able model for change in Atlantic City.”