If you're like me, whenever you're in downtown Caldwell, you always look for a parking spot on the avenue itself. Even if there's not one immediately available, you may even drive around a bit hoping to catch one opening up—even if it's a mile a way.
After three decades in the area, I was almost embarrassed to learn that behind the stores, away from this cat-and-mouse world of Bloomfield Avenue, there's a bunch of municipal lots with loads of spaces. Again, if you're like me, you also may not be aware of how many there actually are.
After close inspection, it's pretty amazing—Caldwell has an impressive network of six lots with easy access. Yet, they're sometimes empty.
I've been checking them out (read as: loitering) for the sake of journalism and bringing you, the reader, into the light.
The following is a handy guide to the municipal parking lots of Caldwell, with an associated video tour.
For the sake of clarity, all lots were given a number, starting at the the points farthest east and then going up in number while going down Bloomfield Avenue, with one double-back for the last one.
Caldwell Municipal Lot No. 1: Provost Square
This lot is located off Provost Square, which is not so much four-cornered, but more of a strip. However, it's a power strip, leading to basically the epicenter of the borough.
Once upon a time, this was an ordinary parking lot getting extraordinary use. It was nearly full all the time with its location directly behind the Caldwell Public Library and across the street from the police department and municipal building.
There are even a small number of businesses sprinkled back there. During events at the Kiwanis Oval, such as the Italian Feast or various sports practices, it was totally overloaded.
Something had to be done and the construction of the Caldwell Community Center nearly 10 years ago dictated and included a revamping of the lot. It's actually a structure now and even a double-decker.
There's an entrance on Roseland Avenue for cars parking on the lower level. A stairwell leads to the upper level and to Provost Square. Ironically, if you want to enter the library from the entrance off the lot, you'll need to descend another set of stairs.
There's also a neat walking path that cuts through the Caldwell Green on Bloomfield Avenue in front of the bottom level.
With plenty of spots in a tight space, this is the engineering marvel of the Caldwell municipal lot lineup. Now, if they could only take some of that ingenuity and figure out how to maximize Provost Square since drivers have to actually go through the parking structure to continue on the street.
Fun Fact: This muni-lot is the most modern in Caldwell and the only double-decker.
Outstanding features: The upper level has a height requirement, enforced by the presence of raised metal bars across the entrance and exits. No big trucks or large heavy vehicles are allowed. The lower level entrance also has a similar requirement.
Municipal Lot No. 2: Cook's Lane, off Personette Street
From the modern to the vintage comes the second lot on our tour. The "Cook's Lane" lot is designated with a plaque affixed to its own brick structure. On it is a little bit of history of the place.
In the 1800s, it was a Presbyterian tract and there was a fire after that guy named Cook opened a couple of stores on it. Hence, "Cook's Lane." After this insightful and reverential passage, the sign also mentions that there's "metered parking" and "evening permits required."
For a smaller lot (it's actually the tiniest in Caldwell), it has always seen a lot of action. In addition to the Amici Salon & Spa, Stephanie's Italian Restaurant has a back entrance and there is a whole slew of in-and-out businesses on the Bloomfield Avenue side, such as Nicco's and Cedar Grill & Pizza. There's a nice walkway between some buildings to the front of the stores.
This lot technically only has one entrance, off Personette Street, but many cut through the adjacent bank lot.
Not-So-Fun Fact: This lot was the site of a party bus trashing earlier this year.
Municipal Lot No. 3: Entrance off Smull Avenue
Here's a big lot (the official name seems to be: "Parking Plaza") that keeps different hours. Situated directly behind Caldwell Cinema, it was more like a sleeping giant until the theatre opened around 10 years ago.
At night now it gets some heavy-duty use from the movie crowd. Moms also drop their children off to Dragon Kim's Karate and pick up dinner at the Pizza and Sandwich Barn. This lot is also a direct feed to Caldwell Flowerland.
There's a nice pedestrian walkway from the lot to Bloomfield Avenue on the left side of the theatre. In addition to folks crossing through the walkway, the theatre actually empties out onto it.
With all of this traffic, the lot is never really totally full, and because of its shape, it appears to be the largest in town. There's always a semi-abandoned or livery vehicle of some sort parked in the back.
Fun Fact: This lot has some great vintage signage and is the home for the Caldwell Farmers' Market.
Municipal Lot No. 4: Wayne Kaplan Plaza, off Gould Place
The next stop on our muni-lots tour is the Mayor Wayne Kaplan Plaza, commonly referred to as the "Foodtown Lot." Customers of that famed supermarket have long enjoyed the rear access to the store (why do they even have a front door?) as well as places like Caldwell Seafood.
The lot is used frequently and it's pretty tight—there's a hairpin turn near the Gould Place exit. Speaking of ways in and out, this lot is also accessible from Brookside Avenue.
Fun Fact: This lot is bigger than it looks due to the presence of a lot of permit-parking spots and a street that runs along most of it that is separated only by a curb. Houses along Lincoln Terrace are also undoubtedly coveted for their view of Mayor Kaplan's parking plaza.
Municipal Lot No. 5: Entrance off Hanford Place
This lot is simply a lot, with a decent amount of spots and not much else. However, it's behind the Cloverleaf Tavern, which also has a dining terrace/beer garden that sits adjacent to the lot, so it sees plenty of action.
Factor in the businesses on Hanford Place like Tony D's, the barber shop and the nail place on the corner of Bloomfield Avenue, and the spots always fill up quickly.
Fun fact: There's an unofficial (read as: no borough signage) pathway to Bloomfield Avenue between Cloverleaf and Bangkok Kitchen.
Fun Fact No. 2: During the annual Caldwell Street Fair, this lot becomes a fun live concert venue, where the cars are replaced by bands and hundreds of people.
Municipal Lot No. 6: Entrance off Bloomfield Avenue between Caldwell Diner and Glow Salon and Spa
This final lot is an odd one. It has a two-lane driveway that is as almost as long as the lot itself. This parking plaza mostly services the customers of the Caldwell Diner. As a result, it lives an off-the-radar existence as an actual municipal lot.
Fun Fact: This lot was actually expanded at some point in the not-too-distant past. It now goes back farther, though many spots are permit-parking only.
Fun Fact No. 2: Due to the expansion, there's actually an unsigned entrance to the lot off Westville Avenue. Many members of the nearby First Presbyterian Church use it, as its noted on its website. There is also an exit one can squeeze through in some serious Pac-Man-like fashion to depart the lot onto Brookside Avenue.
It All Comes Together
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Caldwell's municipal lots is that they are almost all connected. Where one ends, another often begins nearby. Was it really smart planning or good luck? Regardless, they're here for us to use. Be careful, though—signage abounds about meters, time limits, permit spots and more.