Downtown Jersey City: Emerging from the Shadows
By Rachel Sieg
Executive Director, Historic Downtown Special Improvement District
March 6, 2023
Referring to Jersey City as the “Sixth Borough” does not do it justice. Jersey City is so much more. Previously, we were often overshadowed by our neighbor and tried, at times, to emulate NYC. However, in the last two decades or so, we have developed our unique character and vibe: cosmopolitan with a small-town feel and a Jersey edge.
We are proud to have the title of one of the most diverse cities in the US and work hard to include everyone in Jersey City’s Historic Downtown Special Improvement District (HDSID). The HDSID includes the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Mall, City Hall, and surrounding streets. Our year consists of the Historic Downtown Farmers Market, Groove on Grove, Handmade Market, Easter Fun Day, Halloween Family Bash, ribbon cutting events, All About Downtown Street Fair, Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony, marketing, promoting the downtown area and businesses, keeping the district in tiptop shape, and so much more.
Who, What, Where?
As a Special Improvement District (SID), our mission is to promote the area, keep the district clean, and make it the premier ward in our city. Being one of the many SIDs in Jersey City, our goal is to stand out and offer something new. Most of the events organized by the HDSID are held on the Grove PATH Plaza. Getting to the events and markets is made easier by convenient access to buses, PATH trains, and CITI bikes. You can’t get more accessible than that!
Support Local, Buy Local
While we do have the occasional national company within our corridors, most of our businesses are independently owned and operated by locals. We are fortunate to have a great mix of stores people would recognize by their national profile, and some amazing bars, restaurants, and shops that are uniquely Jersey City.
We also provide an avenue for local artists and makers to reach residents and visitors. The Handmade Market appeases the “shop small/shop local” cause. Looking for a one-of-a-kind painting? Or a non-toxic candle? Some unique jewelry? We have you covered! Every Wednesday and Saturday, the Plaza is open to visitors to shop from local artists, artisans, and vintage sellers. Throughout the month of December, we also provide a Holiday Market. Resembling the amazing open-air holiday markets found in Europe and the rest of the world, our aim is to make shopping a little less stressful and more fun!
“The little market that could” would be an appropriate description of the Historic Downtown Jersey City Farmers Market. What started off with four vendors has grown into a year-round market featuring anywhere between 10 to 20 vendors each week. From January trhough December, you can get farm-fresh produce, pies, olives, dried fruit, plants, flowers, and much more at the Grove PATH Plaza.
Let the Music Play!
No boring music allowed here! We book only the best local talent for our free weekly summer concert series, Groove on Grove. The event provides downtown residents and visitors with access to acapella, rock, folk, piano, and acoustic music. Some of the bands and musicians featured during our seasons include: Wailing Denims, Apollo Sonders, Segunda Quimbamba, Katja Larssen, Brendan Mieles, Moe Green’s Eye, The 4th Day, and many more. We also had the incredible students/rockers from the Hoboken School of Rock perform for our Back-to-School event. As we say, “You’re never too old or young to #getyourgrooveon!”
The HDSID also participates in the City-wide Arts Festival, JCAST (Jersey City Art and Studio Tour) every year.
Fun in the City
Each year, the HDSID welcomes new businesses to the area by holding ribbon cutting ceremonies with local officials. We promote the new business via social media and provide pictures for the business owner.
A crucial offering of our SID is the marketing assistance provided to in-district businesses. The HDSID maintains a variety of social media channels and produces a monthly newsletter geared toward promoting our corridor. Business owners can submit special events, stories, and sales at no cost.
The HDSID works to get business sponsorships for the Holiday lights on major thoroughfares, the Christmas tree and Menorah on the Pedestrian Mall, and the Christmas Tree in Mercado Park.
The HDSID also helps organize special community events like Easter Fun Day, Halloween Family Bash, Light it Blue for Autism, and Bubblefest at the Farmers Market. Aside from the main events that are sprinkled throughout the district over the year, the SID also co-sponsors and/or assists with a variety of other events like Christmas in July, JC Pride, autism-acceptance “Light it Up Blue”, and more. Our cleaning crew helps during these wonderful events; and when they are done, you can’t tell thousands of people were having fun in the area.
The Clean Team
The HDSID Clean Team operates seven days a week, including holidays. The Clean Team members cleans the downtown area, picks up litter, and empties the trash receptacles. They also remove graffiti and stickers on City property, manage the plants and flowers, and set-up and assist in running the various HDSID events. The Clean Team is an integral part of the district and plays an important role as unofficial representatives of the HDSID.
Everything’s Waiting for You
The crown jewel of the district is the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Mall. Formerly a busy main street in the downtown area, Newark Avenue was transformed into an oasis in the middle of the City. The entire cityscape changed and allowed for a place of respite for residents and visitors alike. The $7 million project included updating waterlines and sidewalks, upgrading the pavers, and installing permanent furniture and planters. There are now 14 large, beautiful trees, approximately 20 foot tall, providing a canopy on the Mall. A stage is installed to welcome performers, tables are available for al fresco lunches, and benches are there for a bit of respite during the day.
All About Downtown Street Fair
The annual All About Downtown Street Fair attracts thousands of people to our little corridor every September. With 230 vendors, 3 beer gardens, two Kids Zones, and live music, the Street Fair is our moment to shine. The Street Fair features vendors selling everything from handmade candles and jewelry to local businesses promoting their services and wares. We have food vendors selling everything from arepas, sushi “sandwiches”, souvlakia, and tortas to burgers, boozy cakes, and cupcakes.
The day is filled with fun, laughter, music and good eats! The event has something for everyone and has become a great way to say goodbye to summer!
As you can see, we have a lot going on in the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District. Be sure to stop by!
HDSID works with local businesses, property owners and neighborhood associations in conjunction with the City government to promote the area, improve the services provided, and undertake any and all activity to make Historic Downtown Jersey City a better place to live, work and visit. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date on all events!