SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Local residents, patrons to the businesses and restaurants, and other passer-by will be able to enjoy a more decorated walkway from the Sloan Street Parking Lot to South Orange Avenue in the downtown with murals hanging from the side of the Bank of America building and music playing softly in the background.
The Music Walk will be completed with a $21,500 grant from the Main Street New Jersey program, which is a program that gives municipalities grants to revitalize their downtowns. New Jersey Acting Governor Sheila Oliver and State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey announced the grant award during a press conference this week in Spiotta Park.
"The grant funding will be used for restoring storefronts and facades, creative and cultural placemaking, and developing strategies to take downtowns to the next level," said Oliver.
The Main Street grants are part of the Murphy Administration's effort to provide community revitalization programs for small businesses and neighborhood improvements projects with more funding.
Village officials and business organization leaders say the renovated corridor will make the downtown more vibrant. The current corridor from the Sloan Street Parking Lot to South Orange Avenue isn't well lit and isn't currently decorative.
"It's a way to get from Point A to Point B. We wanted to find a way to activate and engage that space," said South Orange Village Center Alliance Chair Mark Murphy.
The corridor will also be enhanced with bistro lighting, lighting on the buildings, seating, landscaping and a bike rack.
Village President Sheena Collum is excited to see the project take off since funding for Main Street New Jersey had been decimated under the Christie Administration.
"To see this re-emergence of Main Street again taking hold on small communities and helping them leverage their existing assets is incredible," Collum said.
The Music Walk is just one example of a project that will enhance the downtown. The town hall building is undergoing an $8 million renovation project that will transform it into a restaurant and beer garden. Five hundred housing units, including 100 affordable units, are expected to be constructed in town between now and 2025.
Jasey said the downtown area has become more vibrant since 1978s when she first moved to South Orange. Now there are more businesses in the downtown area and more patrons who come to the center to shop.
"We came because we had friends here and we're still here," Jasey said. "The downtown was dead back then. The stores were empty or shuttered.
"Now the town has grown. It's a more welcoming and vibrant place," Jasey said.
The Main Street New Jersey program has awared grants to 17 municipalities including South Orange. Other towns to receive a grant in Essex County including Bloomfield, Montclair and West Orange.