From Downtown New Jersey:
Downtown New Jersey (DNJ) celebrated placemaking projects and initiatives intended to help New Jersey small businesses and downtowns survive and thrive during the shutdown and capacity limitations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The awards were presented at a virtual ceremony during the New Jersey Downtown Conference last week, and include South Orange’s The Fox and the Falcon, South Orange Village Center, and Maplewood’s Springfield Avenue Partnership.
Nominations were accepted in two categories – early action and winning winter. Nominee categories also acknowledged the varying capacity of downtown districts, from all-volunteer led groups to BIDs with more significant staff and budgetary resources.
“This is the first ever Downtown New Jersey Placemaking Awards. In a normal year, we would gather in-person to celebrate projects, programs, and leaders at the Downtown Excellence Awards,” DNJ’s Executive Director, Courtenay Mercer said. “Since we could not do a larger program this year, we wanted to recognize excellent placemaking projects and initiatives helping small business cope with the economic strain of COVID-19.”
Joining Downtown New Jersey in recognizing excellence in placemaking was AARP New Jersey, who sponsored the event because these community efforts align with their own Livable Communities initiative.
DNJ presented the following Downtown Placemaking Awards:
Early Action/Merchant Honorable Mention
- The Fox and the Falcon for creating an attractive and engaging outdoor space that spurred more restaurants to follow suit in what became known as South Orange’s “Restaurant Row.”
Winning Winter/Small Organization
Awarded to South Orange Village Center
The South Orange Village Center Alliance (SOVCA) presented South Orange Open Air Holiday Market during the 2020 holiday shopping season. Set in the central downtown parking lot the market was surrounded by restaurants offering seasonal beverages and food options.
The market provided the community with great gift shopping while offering an outdoor, socially distanced holiday shopping experience. The market featured between 20 and 35 rotating vendors, a weekly surprise gift including hand warmers, Hanukkah gelt, candy canes, holiday cookies, and shopping bags.
Live music was included at every market and seasonal décor set the stage. Julie Doran, SOVCA’s Executive Director said, “Holding the market during evening hours allowed us to transform the parking lot into a winter wonderland of sorts, offering a festive and inviting atmosphere that was as much an attraction as it was a place for holiday shopping.”
Winning Winter/Small Organization
- Downtown Cranford for its Scarecrow Stroll and holiday singers initiatives that added to the festive feel of downtown.
- Hackensack Main Street Business Alliance & the Northern NJ Community Foundation for their “Hackensack is on the Rise” poster initiative to help beautify and activate downtown.
- Springfield Avenue Partnership (Maplewood Township) for its Open-Air Market that activated a vacant lot with an outdoor shopping experience that included area makers and crafters, and local musicians
- The Flemington Business Improvement District for its multi-pronged marketing campaign to encourage people to shop and eat downtown.
For more information on Downtown New Jersey, visit www.downtownnj.com.