HACKENSACK – A pair of grants from the state will help Hackensack continue its efforts to transform Main Street into a safe, vibrant and walkable downtown area.

The city is one of five municipalities in New Jersey to earn grant funding through Transit Village, a state initiative that encourages towns to revitalize and improve areas around mass transit facilities.

Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that $1 million would be distributed between Hackensack, Morristown, Bloomfield, Somerville and West Windsor to aid each town’s projects to make their streets more pedestrian-friendly. 

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Hackensack plans to combine its $370,000 through Transit Village with a $255,610 Municipal Aid Grant Award to complete streetscape improvements along Main Street between Berry Street and Banta Place, according to Peter Blanos, the city’s grant writer.

The scope of work includes installing brick pavers, planting street trees with tree grates and putting in ADA-compliant curb ramps. The city will also add decorative benches, trash receptacles and pole lighting, he said.

“These improvements will help improve the aesthetics along Main Street and will also complement all of the redevelopment that will be occurring along it,” Blanos said.

Hackensack has already secured $1.7 million in grant funding for other phases of streetscape improvements on Main Street. Once all phases of work have been finished, the improved streetscape will run along the entirety of Main Street between Sussex and East Anderson streets, he said.

Mayor John Labrosse thanked the governor for the new grant, saying it is a "generous amount that will be put to good use that all Hackensack residents will ultimately benefit from."

Hackensack is in the midst of an overhaul of its downtown, with nearly two dozen properties working to redevelop into mixed-use buildings, allowing for residential and commercial spaces along Main and State streets. 

In 2012, the city approved a redevelopment plan covering a span of more than two miles.

Four years later,  it was designated as a Transit Village by the state for its efforts to develop plans for mixed-use buildings within a half-mile of transportation facilities. To qualify, towns have to adopt redevelopment plans or zoning ordinances and enact policies that encourage the use of mass transit, biking and walking.

When the state Department of Transportation launched its smart growth initiative in 1999, its goals included boosting local economies and creating attractive, pedestrian-friendly communities where people can live, shop and work without relying so much on cars.

Communities that earn a Transit Village designation are then eligible for incentives such as priority funding and enhanced eligibility for state Department of Transportation grants.

Altogether, there are 33 municipalities that have been designated over the last two and a half decades, according to the state.

Other northern New Jersey towns participating in the initiative include Morristown, South Orange, Bloomfield, Jersey City, Netcong, Elizabeth, Orange Township, Montclair, East Orange, Park Ridge and Irvington.