The statehouse in Trenton — file photo
By Joshua Burd
The state has taken a new step to support municipalities seeking to tackle the issue of vacant or underused commercial and retail properties in their towns, under a new planning grant program announced Thursday by the Economic Development Authority.
The agency said the effort, known as the 21st Century Redevelopment Program, has launched as a pilot round of up to $250,000 in available funding. Communities can apply for planning grants of up to $50,000 each, provided the funds will support ideas that focus on 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.
Applications for the program are expected to be available beginning in November.
The program is part of the sweeping economic agenda unveiled last week by Gov. Phil Murphy. It will provide resources to tackle properties such as the suburban offices and shopping malls that boomed during the 1980s and 1990s, which have since fallen out of favor and are now weighing on municipalities across the state.
“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,” said Tim Sullivan, the EDA’s chief executive. “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.”
The EDA will accept applications on a rolling basis and will score them through an evaluation committee based on publicly available scoring criteria, according to a news release. Projects that achieve a minimum score will be recommended for grant funding, while applications will then be evaluated on a first come, first served basis in line with the date that the EDA receives the completed application.
As a condition to receiving the grant funding, grantees will be required to participate in at least two events hosted by the EDA to share lessons learned from the planning process to foster a dynamic discussion about repurposing stranded assets and to assist similarly situated municipalities, the agency said.