NEW BRUNSWICK — As a new business owner, Mike Simko, owner of the Dillinger Room, said having New Brunswick City Market, Inc. on its side helped them become part of the city’s bustling downtown.
“When we were under construction, Pam (Stefanek, executive director of City Market) introduced herself to us and told us about its grant offering for façade improvements,” he said. “Sure enough we received a 25 percent grant for our outside façade and last year we were awarded the most improved business.”
Simko said they had participated in City Market’s Facade Improvement Grant Program that offers technical and financial assistance to qualified property owners or tenants seeking to renovate or restore building facades.
The Dillinger Room, a cocktail bar and eatery located at 338 George Street, has now been in business for a year, and used the grant money to pay for 25 percent of the renovation, while funding the remaining balance themselves.
City Market also offers an Awning Replacement Reimbursement Grant Program with a cap of $2,000 to offer technical and financial assistant to interested, qualified property and business owners in need of an awning replacement, according to the organization.
The goal of City Market is to maximize the return on investment to merchants and property owners of the Special Improvement District (SID), the organization’s website said.
The organization was founded in 1985 to oversee one of the first SIDs established in the state.
Stefanek said the organization receives an assessment from property owners within the SID that pays towards what the City Market does. The SID has approximately 300 businesses located in a 24-block radius.
To reach its goal, City Market works to enhance the mercantile environment by continuing street cleaning, graffiti removal, security initiatives and streetscape and signage improvements as well as by improving downtown street activities; promote New Brunswick as a business destination and attract new businesses to enhance the SID’s retail mix, according to the organization.
Stefanek said she and Fawn Stephens, program manager, are the two staff members of the organization with a volunteer board of 28 active members.
“Our vision is for people to want to come here other than New York or somewhere else,” she said. “There is so much downtown, we have three premiere theaters and a comedy club.”
Stefanek said the organization has a clean team of ambassadors of staff and personnel that help pick up litter and make the environment aesthetically pleasing since the area brings many visitors to the area for the first time.
New Brunswick is a vibrant city of 50,000 residents, a number that triples during the business day with college students, corporate and business employees, hospital and health care workers and visitors, according to the organization.
City Market promotes the downtown as a destination.
Within a few city blocks converge Johnson & Johnson’s world headquarters, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, the country’s largest medical school, two premiere academic hospitals, three professional theaters, several four-star restaurants, and two four-star hotels.
“We have been referenced as the health care city hub,” said Stefanek. “We are centrally located with a train station, a bus line, we are off Route 1 and Route 18, and Route 287 is not too far.”
With Rutgers University now a “Big Ten” school, the city garners many out of state visitors that come to the football games.
Stefanek said many events and conferences are held at the hotels located in the district that include the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick and The Heldrich.
City Market hosts many events and partners with the businesses and organizations in the downtown to help promote individual events as well. The organization also partners with Rutgers University on some promotions.
Stefanek said they hold shop local promotions, restaurant week in July, live musical performances, holiday promotions including free horse drawn carriages and a tree lighting ceremony, a cook-off among chefs at the different restaurants to raise money for charity and more.
One of the many events that City Market partners with is the New Brunswick Jazz Project, which began in 2010.
Michael Tublin, co-founder of the New Brunswick Jazz Project, said City Market has been a great partner in helping them with donations. He said their non-profit organization started hosting two free shows a month six years ago to now hosting free shows four nights a week year around held at four different locations in the city.
The organization hosts a “Women in Jazz Series” and collaborates to host The Central Jersey Jazz Festival with Somerville and Flemington.
For more information about City Market visit www.newbrunswick.com.