The board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority recently approved $3 million in Public Space Activation Grants under the Activation, Revitalization and Transformation program.
The aim is to support the revitalization of Atlantic City and Newark, which both experienced negative economic impacts due to the pandemic.
The four entities that were approved for grants will invest in projects that create an environment necessary to attract and retain residents and talent, enable business creation and attractions, enhance downtown vitality and help local governments avoid future budget crises.
A second tranche of funding for real estate projects is expected to be awarded in early 2024.
Here is a closer look at the first four:
- Newark Alliance ($1.5 million): The Newark Alliance will use the grant to create and support the inauguration of Festivals United, a coordinated strategy, fundraising, operations, marketing and public relations campaign that will leverage the ongoing efforts of multiple existing festivals throughout the city. Festivals United is a new coalition of six major arts and cultural festivals based in Newark: AfroBeat Fest, Halsey Festival, Lincoln Park Music Festival, Newark Arts Festival, Newark Pride and Newark Winter Village, all in partnership with Newark City Parks Foundation. By combining the operational strengths of various festivals into a unified organization, this initiative amplifies their collective social and economic impact, and enhances the city’s overall vibrancy.
- Stockton University ($1 million): Stockton University will lead a collaborative project with four Atlantic City Community Development Corporations to produce a major public space activation project. The funding will be used to support streetscape improvements, specifically 40 wayfinding signs identifying noncasino cultural assets, four neighborhood branding gateways, 100 signs for the public murals and a public tile installation in the heart of the city. The project also includes a comprehensive and collaborative citywide arts and cultural branding, marketing and event coordination program that will increase social gatherings, activate vacant and underutilized space, and contribute to the resilience of the community.
- Inlet Public Private Association ($250,000): The Inlet Public Private Association was established to promote the redevelopment of the Inlet section of Atlantic City. The nonprofit organization will use the funding to support and maintain the Historic Absecon Lighthouse and hire a grant writer to ensure additional grants for continued community growth. The lighthouse is open year-round for visitors and features a free museum and gift shop. The site also offers a community garden and the city’s only farmer’s market. Additionally, the Absecon Lighthouse provides educational art programs.
- Atlantic City Arts Foundation ($248,700): The nonprofit organization is a key contributor to Atlantic City’s vitality and is the premier driver of arts and culture initiatives across the city. The Atlantic City Arts Foundation will use the funding to restore and protect eight murals damaged by time and weather. Funding will go towards purchasing supplies and materials to complete the restoration and support artist stipends.
EDA CEO Tim Sullivan explained the impact.
“As a result of the pandemic, New Jersey’s thriving downtown commuter hubs saw decreased foot traffic and revenue, as many residents and workers transitioned to remote work,” he said. “Gov. Phil Murphy has made a commitment to bring a resurgence to our state’s downtowns by bringing more business, arts and culture to attract residents and commuters. This first tranche of A.R.T. funding will help return the high rate of foot traffic that Atlantic City and Newark saw pre-pandemic.”
The A.R.T. program utilizes American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to reactivate and revitalize Atlantic City and Newark’s commercial corridors in the wake of COVID-19. Commercial corridors play a vital role in both urban and rural geographies, serving as economic engines for communities by providing jobs that keep money circulating in the local economy, offer goods and services for residents, and power entrepreneurship as well as wealth building. They also serve to foster arts and cultural activities, which drive dynamic, thriving communities.