con ·ti ·nu ·i ·ty  noun kän-tÉ’-ˈnü-É’-tÄ“ – uninterrupted connection, succession, or union

The first summer season since Hurricane Sandy, shop owners and downtown officials worked hard to restore business-as-usual to Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Gentle reminders could be seen if you looked ”“ door jambs marked with simple water lines and “Sandy, October 2012.” In a few places, actual re-construction was still in process but even then, effort was made to keep disruption to an absolute minimum. And from the smiling faces, and ringing cash registers, the effort seemed to be paying off.

Above and beyond the reconstruction efforts, something new was basking in the summer sun.

Stone Harbor

At the main intersection as you enter town ”“ 96th Street and Third Avenue ”“ one of the three quadrants had long been vacant ~ the classic “missing tooth” in the downtown. For a few years, it was just an empty hardscrabble lot. Then there were small gestures made to create a park. Soon after, it was ringed in chain link fencing.

But now, the offerings in the downtown have been elevated by the opening of a brand new boutique hotel. The architecture is appropriate to the downtown setting and best of all, the development completes the streetscape, re-enlivening the entire stretch of 3rd Avenue by the bay.

Could another use have filled that gap earlier? Probably. But many times, the fastest solution is not the best solution. In this case, patience was a key planning tool allowing for continuity in the streetscape as well as continuity in the level of presentation and service that has been a hallmark for so long in this community.

If you are struggling with a “missing tooth” in your downtown, know that you are not alone. Revisit your planning tool kit and make sure patience is one of the many arrows in your quiver. It takes time to fill downtown gaps with the right uses but it is worth the wait!