The New Jersey Economic Development Authority will provide planning grants for communities finding new uses for vacant or underutilized commercial and retail properties.
The program advances Governor Phil Murphy’s commitment to “Investing in Communities”—one of the four pillars of a plan announced last week for a Stronger and Fairer New Jersey economy.
“The 21st Century Redevelopment Program presents an opportunity for communities to focus on creative ideas for repurposing dormant properties in ways that contribute to the economy rather than drain valuable resources,” says NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan. “Our expectation is to not only provide funding that will help address a particular community’s specific challenges, but also identify strategies to share with similarly situated communities.”
Many suburban offices and shopping malls that boomed during the 1980s and 1990s have become empty as demographic and economic trends caused jobs and population to leave. Communities that host these empty properties are experiencing lost tax revenues, high costs of maintaining infrastructure and roads around the properties, and a lack of resources to solve these issues.
The 21st Century Redevelopment Program will launch as a pilot round of up to $250,000 in funding as planning grants of up to $50,000 per recipient. Communities can apply for funding through the 21st Century Redevelopment Program to support ideas including, but not limited to:
- Determining cost-benefits of retrofitting, redeveloping or regreening a property or properties;
- Driving economic growth for the facility and region;
- Creating greater social, economic, and environmental sustainability;
- Expanding affordable and multi-family housing;
- Attracting employers and a diverse, talented workforce
- Expanding entrepreneurial opportunities and supporting local businesses;
- Promoting walkable neighborhoods and improving accessibility and mobility;
- Connecting to public transportation; and
- Improving livability and healthy outcomes for local population.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and will be scored by an evaluation committee based on publicly available scoring criteria. Projects achieving a minimum score will be recommended for grant funding. Applications will be evaluated on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Grantees will be required to participate in at least two events hosted by NJEDA to share lessons learned from the planning process to foster a dynamic discussion about repurposing stranded assets and to assist similarly situated municipalities.
NJEDA also says a second round of funding through the Innovation Challenge will be made available for communities to prepare economic development plans augmenting their local innovation ecosystems. The second round of funding follows a successful pilot round in July, in which nine communities received planning contracts to help advance a variety of innovative proposals. The nine communities receiving planning contracts through the pilot round were: the City of Bridgeton, the City of New Brunswick, Passaic County, the City of Trenton, Atlantic County, the City of Atlantic City, Camden County, Union Township, and Monmouth County.
Up to $500,000 will be available in the second round of funding as grants of up to $100,000 each for plans that may focus on several key areas including, but not limited to:
- Increasing opportunities to grow or expand clusters of dynamic companies;
- Encouraging the growth and expansion of incubators and other innovation-supportive real estate spaces;
- Providing STEM training and connections to careers; and
- Building a culture of entrepreneurship.
Applications for the 21st Century Redevelopment Program and the second round of the Innovation Challenge are expected to be available beginning in November.