Pictured at the event: Councilman Charles Cobb, Englewood SID Chair Albert Krull, Councilman Wayne Hamer, Mayor Michael Wildes, Chamber President and SID Executive Director Carol Rauscher, ECC Vice Chair Richard Engel, City Council President Katharine Glynn, ECC Chair Todd Brooks and ECC Board Member Nicholas Prastos. | Photo by Hillary Viders
BY HILLARY VIDERS
SPECIAL TO NORTHERN VALLEY PRESS
ENGLEWOOD, N.J.—“We are going to renew Englewood, and we must do it with passion and compassion!” exclaimed Mayor Michael Wildes.
This encouraging message and Wildes’ “can do” spirit set the tone for the Englewood Chamber of Commerce (ECC) and the Special Improvement District Management Corp’s (SID) annual meeting on Jan. 25. The brainstorming session focused on ways to revitalize the city’s downtown business area and how to make the city more accessible and inviting.
The ECC meeting, chaired by Carol Rauscher, ECC president and executive director of SID Englewood, outlined a blueprint for 2019. Among the several dozen attendees present were members of the ECC and SID as well as special guests, including Englewood City Council President Katharine Glynn, Councilman Wayne Hamer, Councilman Charles Cobb, former Councilman and Southeast Senior Center for Independent Living (SESCIL) Executive Director Scott Reddin, Age-Friendly Englewood coordinator Janet Sharma, Flat Rock Brook Nature Center Executive Director Stephen Wiessner, and Senior Assistant Governor of Rotary District 7490 Aleta Frezzell.
Wildes is widely respected for his business expertise as a managing partner of Wildes and Weinberg, a successful immigration law firm. As such, his straightforward and professional approach to tackling business, cultural and quality of life issues in Englewood was well received.
“My agenda is to renew Englewood,” Wildes declared. “I want to repaint parts of City Hall and to give this city a fresh coat of paint. Some of the most beautiful things we have here are weathered and we need to step up. We need to bring capitol into our treasury, increase ratables and reduce our debt so that we can address the infrastructure needs.”
Amongst the many ideas that Wildes put forth were having a parking authority regulate the parking situation and creating conductivity between Route 4 and the business district.
Wildes also addressed environmental issues, the needs of seniors and the new Cultural Affairs Committee that he recently established.
Another very important pronouncement was, “We have to fix the schools and make Englewood affordable so that young people will want to live here.”
The key point that Wildes emphasized was, “We want people to know that Englewood is open for business, but it has to be done in a collaborative way.”
“I am here because of the trust given to me by the residents of this community, but I consider you to really be my boss and to shepherd us in the right places,” Wildes said.
After Wildes’s remarks, Todd Brooks, the ECC chair, outlined the mission of the ECC: to promote business growth, provide personal and professional development opportunities, affect public policy decisions to benefit the business community, and actively develop and promote community events.
Brooks also explained the benefits that businesses receive as members of the ECC.
Board Member Stephanie Greco listed all the community events that the ECC hosts.
Next, Rauscher outlined how the ECC helps it members market their businesses, with emphasis on access to free ECC website links and announcements that they can customize as well as Facebook and Instagram social media feeds.
She also demonstrated how businesses can benefit from the ECC’s special advertising promotions for its members for Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Rauscher also explained how the ECC’s online directory simplifies user access to businesses with numerous subcategories.
Finally, Rauscher told the group about the ways in which the ECC networks with chambers in many other communities in order to establish what works and what doesn’t work. She feels that the town of Montclair has an exemplary marketing and business model and intends to use that for Englewood’s blueprint.
Before introducing the next speaker, Rauscher praised the Northern Valley Press for its exceptional coverage of Englewood events throughout the year.
Janet Sharma then spoke about Age-Friendly Englewood initiatives to promote products, services and business features that benefit older adults. These include: having adequate lighting in public buildings, using large clear lettering for signage, printed materials and websites, clearly marking stairs, inclines and drops, installing electronic doors and wide aisles, and creating places throughout town where customers can sit and rest.
Albert Krull, chair of the Englewood SID, spoke about the function of the corporation, which is relatively new to Englewood. The Englewood SID is a nonprofit corporation managed by a seven-member Board of Trustees, which meets at least six times a year, and by an executive director hired by the board to run the day-to-day operations. Councilman Hamer serves as the liaison between SID and the city council.
The SID presents an annual budget of $250,000 each spring for adoption by the city council and it plays an essential role in Englewood. Among SID’s many activities are the maintenance of downtown, landscaping, free Wi-Fi, electric car chargers in the municipal garage, security cameras, holiday decorations, parking and signage and support of the ECC’s special events.
There was a discussion of parking in downtown Englewood and a survey filled out by 150 business owners reported that there is enough parking in Englewood without having to build another garage or add additional lots. It was agreed that SID will work on the creation of more designated employee parking spaces and the ECC will let customers know the locations of the parking lots in Englewood. There was also a discussion of alternatives to free parking during the holiday period from Thanksgiving through Dec. 31.
The final agenda item concerned marketing strategies for downtown. In coordination with the city manager’s office, the SID is costing out and planning the installation of five modern, multi-color electronic marquees in three key locations. This includes double-sided digital panels to replace the marquee in front of City Hall and digital panels on the south west corner of Demarest and North Dean Street on Veterans Park grass and double-sided digital panels near Liberty School to provide maximum visibility for drivers entering and exiting downtown in that area.