The statehouse in Trenton — file photo
By Joshua Burd
The state Economic Development Authority is accepting applications for a new grant program aimed at helping municipalities and counties find solutions for vacant or underused commercial properties within their borders.
Under what’s known as the 21st Century Redevelopment Program, the EDA said it will provide grants of up to $50,000 for local governing bodies, counties or county redevelopment agencies to study potential redevelopment and other options. The agency launched the initiative in October as a pilot program, armed with up to $250,000 in total funding, as a way to combat demographic and economic trends that have left suburban office parks, shopping malls and other aging properties struggling or vacant.
“Repositioning these sites will help drive the innovation economy via a range of new uses, from modern office space to mixed use development to catalytic open space,” said Tim Sullivan, the authority’s CEO. “The 21st Century Redevelopment Program will facilitate investment in communities, one of the four strategic priorities of Governor Phil Murphy’s plan for a stronger and fairer New Jersey economy.”
The program is meant to support ideas that focus on several elements such as:
- Determining cost-benefits of retrofitting, redeveloping, or re-greening a property or properties;
- Driving economic growth for the facility and region;
- Creating greater social, economic and environmental sustainability;
- Expanding affordable and multifamily 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;
- Improving livability and healthy outcomes for local population
The EDA noted that underused commercial and retail properties create planning challenges for their host communities, including the loss of tax revenues and lack of resources to maintain infrastructure and surrounding roads.
The authority will accept applications on a first come, first-served basis and will score them through an evaluation committee, based on publicly available criteria, according to a news release. Projects that achieve a minimum score will be recommended for grant funding.
As part of the terms of the grant, grantees will be required to participate in at least two events hosted by the EDA to share lessons learned from the planning process, foster a dynamic discussion about repurposing stranded assets and provide guidance and assistance to similarly situated communities.
Applications can be found at https://www.njeda.com/21stCentury.