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July 25, 2023

Cape May considers adding more arches to the Promenade, but some residents push back

The six structures along the beachfront pay homage to city's historic look. Another 16 could be on the way

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Cape May Arches @capemaycity/Instagram

Cape May's new Promenade arches have been met with mixed reactions. Though some people say they bring a Victorian charm, others view them as an expensive eyesore. The Jersey Shore town is considering adding add 16 more.

Last winter, Cape May installed a series of six arches along its Promenade as a salute to the wooden arches that once lined the beachfront stretch during the first half of the 20th century, before storm damage led to their removal. 

The new Promenade arches provide overhead lighting from Gurney to Decatur streets, and are built more durably than their predecessors, with steel frames wrapped in Azec, a synthetic material made to resemble wood. At the Fourth of July, the arches were draped in red, white and blue regalia.

Now, Cape May's Historic Preservation Commission and the nonprofit Fund For Cape May want to add another 16 arches along the Promenade in the years ahead. But critics of the arches came out to a city council meeting on July 18 to oppose adding any more – especially near residential areas.

Architect John Boecker, who serves on the preservation commission, outlined a plan that would add 16 more arches over two phases. The plan calls for them to be spaced about 150 feet apart.  

The first phase of the proposal would add 10 arches — eight to the west of the current arches and two to the east. This phase would focus primarily on a commercial stretch of the Promenade, where the existing arches are located.

The second phase would add six more arches to the east, extending to Madison Avenue, where the Promenade ends.

Reactions to the arches have been mixed on social media, with some appreciative of their lighting and the Victorian charm they bring to the Promenade in a town beloved for its architecture from that era. Others view them as expensive eyesores that could become hangouts for seagulls and other birds to do their business. Each arch costs about $25,000.

Cape May boardwalk the new arches are lit up and decorated for the 4th of July holiday.

Posted by Russ Hendrickson on Thursday, June 29, 2023

The existing arches were proposed in July 2022 as part of the widening of the Promenade, which removed street poles, lights and electrical wiring that instead was routed underground.

At the city council meeting, people opposed to adding more arches expressed concerns about the project interfering with views, contributing light pollution and potentially lowering property values, the Cape May County Herald reported. During the installation of the first six arches, the city posted signs that characterized them as reducing light pollution from the utility poles they replaced.

Critics also wondered whether the arches could be subject to the same storm risks that doomed the original wooden arches that lined the Promenade from 1910 to 1944. Boecker has said they are made to be more resilient and capable of surviving strong winds.

Cape May's reputation as one of the top beach vacation destinations in the U.S. has led city leaders to consider ways to beautify the Promenade in recent years. The arches, paid for through a public-private partnership with the Fund for Cape May, are one of the more notable steps in that direction.

Cape May Mayor Zachary Mullock acknowledged that the third set of arches could be a tough sell to residents in the area east of Convention Hall. The council meeting included a presentation, but there was no vote, the Press of Atlantic City reported

"I don't think any council member wants to die on the hill of changing a light post," Mullock said.

For now, it appears the city is giving residents and visitors a chance to adjust to the arches before making any decisions about when and where to add more.