Cape May, NJ is a seashore town, so the area is exposed to sun, sand and salt in the air. The city wanted something sturdy with a high-end finish that would hold up to both the elements and high-volume pedestrian traffic. The rumbled clay pavers, said the engineering firm, cost more than concrete ones, but the city determined it was worth the higher cost for a long-term investment.
All photos: Luke Trovato, Remington & Vernick EngineersSummer’s here. And in the Northeast, as they have for centuries, vacationers will be headed to Cape May City, New Jersey, which is America’s oldest beach resort. It began hosting vacationers from the Philadelphia area in the mid-18th Century and has the second largest collection of Victorian houses in the United States, behind San Francisco. The Cape May website describes the town as being located at the southernmost point in New Jersey, the nearby Cape May Harbor allows fishing vessels to enter from the Atlantic Ocean, making it the second-largest fishing port on the East Coast. Tourism is a dominant industry for the city, with the economy focusing on shops, restaurants, lodging, and tourist attractions including the Washington Street Mall and the beachfront promenade. Ecotourism is also prominent, featuring more than 400 recorded bird species, marine mammal watching trips, fishing trips, and more. Noteably, the area is a key spot along the route of the annual Monarch Butterfly migration, which itself makes Cape May a popular destination. Not surprisingly, the colorful, historic resort town needed a place for residents and visitors alike to gather that was in keeping with its history.
The Washington Street Mall was one of the earliest downtown through-streets to be replaced with a pedestrian mall in the United States. Constructed from 1965 to 1971, the buildings, streetlights, and furnishings echoed Victorian design themes, to complement surrounding neighborhoods.
In 1976, the Secretary of the Interior declared that the entire city was a historic district, which effectively protected the overall appearance of the Mall.
By 2005, some of the paving needed to be demolished for underground utility work. The city decided that it was an ideal time to perform some much-needed upgrades to the mall, which had aged and deteriorated. Some of the elements were deteriorated, there was an overflow of trash, and a lack of shade and seating that had arisen as the number of tourists and visitors grew.
The goal of the project was to improve and refresh the look of much-needed the Mall and enhance the experience for tourists through upgrades such as additional seating, spaces for outdoor dining and improved ADA accessibility.
Remington & Vernick Engineers was part of the team that worked on the utility upgrades and was selected by the city to develop a conceptual design plan for the Mall’s restoration. The plan was created based on the firm’s meetings with project stakeholders and required careful consideration of the needs of merchants, tourists and residents.
The engineering firm said that in addition, careful consideration of the community’s historic character was included in the design. The city wanted the Mall to look like something that had been there a long time and avoid anything garish or ‘New Age’ looking. The main goal was to preserve the Mall’s history while specifying a durable product that held up to heavy foot traffic and its fair share of dropped ice cream and chewing gum.
Getting to work with rumbled clay pavers
The project as outlined by Remington & Vernick Engineers and installed by Think Pavers Hardscaping began in July 2005 and ended in June 2008. In all, it encompasses three city blocks, 900 feet long and 35 feet wide.
The pavement itself was a blend of Rumbled Main Street, Rumbled Red and Rumbled Red Heavy Duty and Red ADA pavers. A flush bluestone curb was used as a demarcation line for outdoor dining spaces and as a visual reference to the site’s former use as a street.
In front of the shops and restaurants is an eight-inch-wide granite curb. In places such as underneath the clock, 12-inch by 12-inch bluestone pavers in diamond patterns were featured.
The end result is that the rumbled clay pavers give the Mall a more high-end look. And the color will never fade. Cape May is a seashore town, so the area is exposed to sun, sand and salt in the air. The city wanted something sturdy with a high-end finish that would hold up to both the elements and high-volume pedestrian traffic. Clay pavers, said the engineering firm, cost more than concrete ones, but the city determined it was worth the higher cost for a long-term investment.
An investment that is paying off
Conde Nast Traveler recently named Cape May as one of its 26 Most Beautiful Towns in America.
Here’s what they had to say:
There’s lots to love about Cape May, all the way at the very tip of the Parkway: A perfect marriage of charm and history, the town’s historic Victorian district, and miles of intricate, candy-colored manses make for prime early-morning-stroll viewing. The tiny peninsula also offers some of the best birdwatching in the country—and, from March to December, fantastic whale watching.
And last year, the merchants of the Washington Street Mall along with the Executive Committee of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) announced that the Washington Street Mall was designated a 2021 “Great Place in New Jersey.”
Specifically, the Mall was designated as a “Great Street”, characterized by how it relates to adjacent development, encourages social activity, and has a memorable character.
APA New Jersey noted the Mall’s balance of the competing needs of a common street, such as its numerous bike racks and the free Jitney shuttle service that helps to ease parking.
Come for a visit – online or onsite
The best way to learn about the Mall is at its website. The site says that the mall includes more than 75 establishments in the heart of the town. A variety of unique boutiques, shops, fine dining restaurants, bars, quick eats, activities, and services are located along a three-block stretch of Washington Street, which is closed to vehicular traffic, as well as adjoining portions of Ocean Street, Decatur Street, Jackson Street, Perry Street, Carpenters Lane, and Lyle Lane.
The Mall serves as Cape May’s town square, and features numerous benches, luscious gardens, shady trees, historical markers, gas lamps, bistro-style string lights, Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, and more. Attracting not only visitors to Cape May, the Mall also attracts visitors to other Jersey Shore towns as well those from up and down the East Coast.
After a look at some of the restaurants, we’d suggest not only looking at the website. Load up the car and visit the town itself. We’re sure they’d welcome you.