Arts & Culture Community South Orange

SOVCA Awarded Transformation Grant From Main Street New Jersey

From the South Orange Village Center Alliance:

The South Orange Village Center Alliance (SOVCA) is pleased to announce that the organization has been awarded a $21,500 Transformation Grant from the Main Street New Jersey (MSNJ) Program and will use the funds to continue their downtown beautification efforts. The grant money, combined with money raised from the recent Under Cover Music Fest and last year’s PlayDay, will be used to transform a pedestrian alleyway into a ‘Music Walk,’ an interactive public music art space. The organization will host a Main Street New Jersey press conference with Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, to announce all the grant recipients, in South Orange on July 31.

Throughout the past year, SOVCA has been leading beautification projects throughout downtown South Orange to make community spaces more attractive and inviting for pedestrians, businesses and the community. With funds raised from programs including PlayDay and Under Cover Music Fest, and with the help and involvement from Scalora Brothers Landscaping Co., the Department of Public Works, the Parking Authority and the Village Administration, the SOVCA beautification committee have completed a refresh of Spiotta Park and solidified plans for repairing the fountain at the gazebo, new plantings on Sloan Street, a new banner program and painting of the lamp posts. 

With this new grant from MSNJ, SOVCA will also transform the pedestrian alleyway leading from South Orange Ave to the Sloan Street parking lot into an interactive “Music Walk” by installing new murals, flower instruments, benches, overhead bistro lights, up lighting, landscaping and a custom bike rack.  Audio music will also be piped in. The walk-way was designed in a way that allows the space to transform and host new art with changing themes in the future.

“Beautifying South Orange has been a high priority goal for our leadership team over the past year, as we want our residents to come downtown and feel a sense of pride and excitement,” said Mark Murphy, Chair of SOVCA. “The SOVCA beautification committee has been instrumental at identifying areas that can be improved upon or ‘activated’ in our downtown. Spiotta Park was a huge step forward and we are really excited about the energy that the ‘Music Walk’ will bring to our downtown.”

Mark Hartwyk, treasurer of SOVCA and co-chair of the beautification committee, added, “We are thrilled to receive this grant money, which will turn our visions of revitalizing one of our pedestrian walkways into this new interactive space all will enjoy.”

This year marks the first time in its 30-year history that the MSNJ Program has awarded grants to designated MSNJ district organizations around the state. The grant funding is part of a larger effort by the Murphy Administration and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which administers MSNJ, to commit more resources to community revitalization programs that focus on small businesses and neighborhood improvement projects. 

“Downtown business districts play such an important role in the economic and social health of our communities, which is why Governor Murphy and I have invested significant resources in the Main Street New Jersey Program,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner. “This investment includes awarding Main Street grants for the first time ever to help downtowns with improvement projects, placemaking, and transformation strategies. All of these grant-funded activities are scheduled to be completed by year’s end and we can’t wait to see how they positively impact downtowns around the state.”

About the MSNJ Program 

Established in 1989, 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. These designated communities receive technical support and training to assist in restoring their Main Streets as centers of economic and social activity. This year, designated communities were also eligible for the MSNJ Transformation Grants, which are funding awards of $25,000 or less aimed at assisting projects such as storefront improvement, placemaking, and transformation strategies development that can be completed in six months or less.

About South Orange Village Center Alliance

The South Orange Village Center Alliance (SOVCA) is a non-profit that is dedicated to making downtown South Orange a vibrant place to live, work and enjoy through events, beautification and advocacy for the downtown business district. SOVCA’s mission is to strengthen the vitality of the downtown business district by supporting existing businesses and attracting new ones to improve the Village’s retail mix; raising funds for improvement and public art projects; producing events that complement existing stores and services; maintaining a clean, safe, and pedestrian-friendly downtown; and helping our governing body manage new development while preserving the attractive architectural legacy of the downtown area. The organization is run by an Executive Director and a volunteer board of directors made up of property owners, business owners, residents and other stakeholders. The organization produces key downtown events, including Taste of South Orange Food Stroll, Downtown After Sundown, Under Cover Music Fest, PlayDay, the Farmers Market and more. For more information, visit

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