DNJ Excellence Awards Logo

2018 Downtown Excellence Awards

Courtenay D. Mercer, PP, AICP
Executive Director, Downtown New Jersey

October 4, 2018

Statewide non-profit organization recognizes achievements in downtown economic development

Jersey City, NJ –  Downtown New Jersey (DNJ) will celebrate initiatives that have made a major or sustained impact on downtown economic development in New Jersey at an awards ceremony on Friday, November 2nd during its annual Downtown Conference at New Jersey City University School of Business on the Jersey City waterfront.

The premiere downtown economic development event of the year, the DNJ Annual Conference hosts industry experts who provide insights into downtown management best practices, as well as development, business and retail market trends. The conference provides not only an opportunity to learn the latest trends in downtowns, but also opportunity to network with peers. As usual, DNJ will celebrate achievements in downtown economic development during the Downtown Excellence Awards presentation during lunch.

“Every year, we are more and more impressed by the dedication and creativity of downtowns in their efforts to provide services, engage new audiences, and promote the economic development of their downtowns,” DNJ’s Executive Director, Courtenay Mercer said. “We are privileged and honored to recognize these efforts through the annual Downtown Excellence Awards.”

DNJ presented the following Downtown Excellence Awards:

Built Projects:

Excellence in Placemaking
awarded to the Wildwood BID for
Byrne Plaza

In June 2018, the Wildwoods Business Improvement District Management Corporation (WBID), the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority (GWTIDA), The Byrne Fund for Wildwood, Inc., Crest Savings Bank and the City of Wildwood unveiled Byrne Plaza – the newest and most centrally located special event site in the Wildwoods. Byrne Plaza brings the community and vacationers together for events in the heart of the Downtown district.

Situated on action-packed Pacific Avenue, just two blocks from the famous Wildwoods Boardwalk, Byrne Plaza offers 60,000 square feet of outdoor space, suitable for a wide variety of events. Anchored by a huge covered pavilion at the west end, Byrne Plaza can accommodate audiences between 2,500-5,000 people for stage-based concerts and performances, and up to 100 vendors. The Plaza is an ideal location for a wide variety of events including seasonal farmer’s markets; concerts & stage performances; arts & craft shows; specialty wine, craft beer and unique food events; weddings & other private events; and health & fitness expos.

The new space has allowed the WBID, in conjunction with GWTIDA, to develop a full program of new events to attract visitors to Downtown Wildwood. “Byrne Plaza provides a unique and ideal event space for any occasion in the Wildwoods. It has allowed us to expand the must-see attractions in the Wildwoods to the Downtown area, and has increased foot traffic to local businesses in the heart of district,” said City of Wildwood Mayor, Ernie Troiano Jr.

Excellence in Design
awarded to Bloomfield College for
The Center for Technology+Creativity

“This project is a model for what should be done with historic buildings within the Township.” With this proclamation from Bloomfield’s Township Council given to Bloomfield College and Fallon+Pacheco Architects, designers of the project, the statement is a reflection of the collaboration and effort that went into transforming three (3) separate buildings in a central campus location into a building focused on providing a state of the art collaboration-based environment loaded with technology and good acoustics. Integrating technology, modern building systems and good acoustics into old buildings was a challenge that required a creative design solution. The sensitive and responsive design included as a key element, the historic restoration of the 1860’s Mabel Sociable Club building.

Responding to its location in Bloomfield’s Downtown and Historic District, the new Center for Technology+Creativity establishes a new home for Bloomfield College’s vibrant Creative Arts & Technology program. The project transformed three tired buildings into a thriving and lively place. Its technology and acoustic environment provide an energizing setting for teaching, learning, collaborating and it gives the opportunity to host a wide array of community programs, special events and presentations. This new facility also plays a key role in creating a new ‘Back Yard’ Quad from underutilized space located in the rear of the project.

In addition to receiving the Town Council’s Proclamation ,the project was recognized with an award from the American Institute of Architects Newark & Suburban Chapter for excellence in design. The project was made possible by College funding and a $2.2 million State of New Jersey ‘Building Our Future’ grant.

Excellence in Downtown Impact
awarded to the Newark Museum for
The Bamberger Entrance

The Newark Museum’s renovation that re-opened the historic front entrance demonstrates that even a seemingly small project can have a significant impact on the city’s downtown. The new entrance sequence – an events plaza on Washington Street, transparent Bamberger Entrance, and a distinctive ramp – improves the streetscape and draws people to the area. Inside, visitor orientation and renovated galleries reinforce the Museum’s contribution to the cultural, social and economic vitality of Newark. Arts-based solutions are recognized for driving economic development.

Mayor Ras Baraka noted, “Newark is now viewed as one of the ten most thriving arts communities in the nation.” The Museum said: “Our ongoing collaboration with Michael Graves Architecture & Design has not only helped establish the museum as one of America’s leading institutions for art, science and education, but also served as a model for urban redevelopment.”

This project transformed how the Museum relates to downtown and contributes to its success. Mayor Baraka commended the project as “a great example of the direction the City is going in…Newark turned the corner as we began to develop (this downtown area) along Washington Street. The Museum participates in that by opening up its front doors to the community. It means the Museum is back to life, our city is back to life, and New Jersey can be proud because its largest city is leading the way for the entire State.” The project involved multiple community, city and state preservation groups, generating widespread recognition of its importance for a revitalized downtown.

Tools of the Trade:

Awarded to the Gruskin Group &
Springfield BID for the
Lyons Building Window Display Project

To build “buzz” around an upcoming mixed-use development project in Springfield, NJ, the Springfield Community Partnership/Springfield Business Improvement District (BID) turned to a home-based solution provider. Resident design firm, Gruskin Group, created large-scale graphics for the windows of the soon-to-be demolished downtown building. By replacing the typical non-descript, brown paper clad storefronts with vibrant retail scenes and messaging, the updated “displays” helped sow the seeds of change and introduce potential retailers and customers to new possibilities. The window graphics show the potential of the new project to the community and inspire optimism about the future for their downtown.

Awarded to the
Williamstown Economic Development Commission for its
Commercial Developer Tour

The Williamstown Economic Development Commission (EDC) & Township Council showcased this fast-growing township with a “Come Grow With Us” Commercial Developer Trolley Tour on October 18, 2017. Attended by 17 developers and builders, the tour highlighted the latest opportunities for commercial development and Williamstown’s business-friendly programs. Attendees explored Williamstown via trolley, which highlighted eight vast land tracts located along or near the busy Atlantic City Expressway, Route 322, the Black Horse Pike, and Downtown Main Street, and all designated for new and upcoming commercial redevelopment projects, and ready for business growth.

Williamstown is ideally located between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, offering easy access to several major highways, there are more than 32,800 households with an average household income of $92,800 a year. The desirable Soccer Moms – an affluent, family-oriented segment with a country flavor – is the largest consumer segment, accounting for 37% of all households within a 5-mile radius. Consumer spending exceeds $5.2 billion a year within a 10-mile radius and there are millions in unmet demand for furnishings, clothing, appliances, dining and much more.

“The state of our economy here remains bullish. Williamstown offers excellent opportunities for business success, with miles of acreage and commercial space available for accelerated development, and this tour was an excellent way to showcase it all,” explained Mayor Daniel Teefy.

DNJ is a non-profit membership organization of individuals, businesses, developers, government agencies, and local and regional entities that are passionate about downtowns. Downtowns reflect our communities’ unique identities, provide a focal point, a convenient local place of commerce, and offer a sense of place where people can gather and truly be a community. DNJ provides advocacy, education, and technical assistance resources dedicated to ensuring the vitality of our downtowns.

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