Main Street NJ Transformation Grants: Improve Appearance, Quality of Life, and Local Commerce


The New Jersey Department of Community Affair (DCA) this week announced the award of $987,176 to 14 main street districts within several counties in NJ.

The money aims to improve the appearance, quality of life, and local commerce within locations coined as Main Street New Jersey (MSNJ) districts.

For the first 29 years of its history, the Main Street NJ Program has provided technical assistance and training to these MSNJ areas, but only began to provide financial assistance in 2019. Since, the program has distributed over $4.3 million in grants – including the funding announced this week – to MSNJ district organizations.

“The MSNJ Program helps municipalities improve the economy, appearance, and image of their central business districts through the organization of local citizens and resources. Municipalities must apply and be selected to join the MSNJ Program, which was established in 1989. These designated communities receive technical support and training to assist in restoring their main streets as centers of economic and social activity.” – NJ DCA

Three types of projects were eligible for Transformation Grants funding:

  1. Storefronts and façade improvements: improvement and restoration of mixed-use and commercial buildings and storefronts following the minimum standards of the MSNJ design guidelines for facades and storefronts
  2. Placemaking: improvement and creation of placemaking projects in public spaces that meet or exceed the MSNJ placemaking project criteria
  3. Organizational capacity: services, training, and consultation in support of the implementation of the MSNJ district management organization’s transformation strategies, including costs of professional services directly related to implementing the project.

2022 Main Street New Jersey Transformation Grant Recipients:

Bloomfield Center Alliance Inc., Essex County - $75,000

Bloomfield Center Physical Improvement Grant Initiative: Purchase branded trash receptacles, banners, and hanging planters; revamp the façade improvement program to provide bigger grants with a lower match requirement; create a vacant window initiative; install a downtown mural; draft a strategic plan.

Boonton Main Street Inc., Morris County - $73,520

Public Outdoor Seating Plaza: Transform the area in front of Boonton’s public library, which is located in the middle of the downtown district, into a public plaza to provide a permanent outdoor gathering space and complement the library’s newly built amphitheater.

Downtown Bernardsville, Somerset County - $75,000

First Year Main Street Program Launch: Establish an improvement district, as well as four committees each with their own projects based on survey data that identified family dining, family entertainment, and hiking and nature trails as key transformational strategies.

Downtown Westfield Corporation, Union County - $75,000

Revitalizing the Rialto Plaza and Walkway: Transform the plaza and alley surrounding the Rialto Theatre with lighting, art, a bike oasis, and public safety features to complement the arts-focused nonprofit that recently bought the theater.

Fair Lawn Economic Development Corporation, Essex County - $75,000

Fair Lawn EDC Main Street Program: Rehabilitate the façades of three business properties, establish a website to showcase the business district’s merchants and services, and fund operational and marketing costs.

Main Street Highland Park, Middlesex County - $22,530

Downtown Parklet Project: Provide permanent outdoor dining spaces by closing off portions of the side streets off of Highland Park’s main street. A local carpenter will construct the parklet structures with community help on a dedicated “build day.”

Main Street Mount Holly, Burlington County - $75,000

Keep Pressing Forward: Improve the façades of 17 business properties on High Street, install wayfinding signage in the business district, and hire marketing professionals to promote the district to the community and nearby Maguire Dix and Lakehurst military base.

Main Street Woodbury Inc., Gloucester County - $103,126

Charlie Brown’s Fresh Grille: Complete the exterior renovation of the Charlie Brown’s Fresh Grille building, which dates back to 1737, so the restaurant can reopen and return to being an anchor in the business district.

Metuchen Downtown Alliance, Middlesex County - $75,000

Achieving Greater Success for Businesses in Metuchen: Improve the façades of two downtown businesses; install permanent outdoor seating, art, and plantings in the alley connecting New Street parking with Main Street; and hire a consultant to update the strategic plan for the next five years.

Montclair Center for Business Improvement District, Essex County - $75,000

Montclair Center District Improvements: Install a Letrapolebanner system, create a website for stakeholders to participate in the banner program, purchase 14 hanging planter baskets, and partner with local groups to develop 3-4 outdoor shows in the Wellmont Arts Plaza.

South Orange Village Center Alliance, Essex County - $66,500

Village Plaza Triangle Rehab: Install art, pedestrian lighting, outdoor seating/dining, landscaping, and recreational features for families in the Village Plaza Triangle to create an active community space that matches the rest of South Orange’s downtown district.

Springfield Avenue Partnership in Maplewood, Essex County - $75,000

Springfield Avenue MSNJ: Fund a one-time subsidy for MSNJ district salary, set up MSNJ committees to execute the work plan, develop a façade grant program, and make streetscape improvements such as banners, signage, and holiday decorations.

Summit Downtown Inc., Union County - $46,500

Placemaking through Public Art and Pedestrian Plaza: Conduct a feasibility study for the closure of a section of Maple Street into a pedestrian plaza, install a sculpture in one of Springfield Avenue’s pocket parks, and paint a mural near Summit Diner along Union Place where permanent seating exists.

Vineland Downtown Improvement District Management Corp., Cumberland County - $75,000

Operation Facelift: Extend the façade improvement program to 6 to 12 new business properties in the downtown business district.

Total: $987,176


More Information about the MSNJ

Criteria for becoming an MSNJ community:

  • One identifiable downtown or Main Street
  • Historic buildings and character
  • Walkable scale and pedestrian-orientated district
  • Mixed-use predominates
  • Commitment to revitalization: financial, people, policy
  • Commitment to employing a full-time Executive Director, with an adequate program operating budget for a minimum of four years, if the municipality has a population over 20,000

Services available to MSNJ communities:

  • In-depth volunteer and executive director training
  • Advanced training on specific downtown issues, including marketing, business recruitment, volunteer management, and historic preservation
  • Professional consultant visits to develop each community's strengths and plan for success
  • Small business development services for local business owners
  • Marketing and public relations services for local businesses and Main Street organizations
  • Architectural design services for business and property owners
  • Educational materials including manuals and slide programs
  • Links to local, state, and national Main Street community networks

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