JERSEY CITY, NJ -- Tom Strowe, who leads Scotch Plains Township’s economic development efforts as Project Coordinator for Redevelopment, is among the five new Board members named by Downtown New Jersey, a non-profit membership organization of individuals, businesses, developers, government agencies, and other entities that are passionate about downtowns. 

Tom Strowe has led the effort to prepare the first downtown redevelopment plan for publicly-owned downtown properties and is currently leading the negotiating effort between the Township and the conditionally designated developer, Advance Realty, to redevelop downtown. He has been a driving force behind the Snuffy’s redevelopment plan that will bring the first grocery store to downtown Scotch Plains in decades, along with a Park and Ride for residents and commuters.

“I am honored to have been nominated and elected to serve on the Board of Directors for Downtown New Jersey,” said Strowe, who says an area of his focus will be liquor license reform.

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"Our liquor license laws are archaic and date back to the repeal of Prohibition. A progressive state like New Jersey should do better than old-fashioned liquor license laws," Strowe told TAPintoSPF.

A 2010 graduate of Scotch Plains-Fanwood HS and 2014 graduate of Fairleigh-Dickinson University, Strowe is a solid supporter for downtown events and established Live Band Karaoke Night at the Alan Augustine Green in downtown Scotch Plains -- an event he emcees and performs in each year. 

"There are thriving downtowns everywhere, and people want to live in them," said Strowe, who listed Somerville, Morristown, Cranford, Princeton, Red Bank, South Orange, and Westfield among the models for thriving downtowns in the state. "We are going to make it happen here in Scotch Plains. "There's no reason why Scotch Plains can't thrive like those other downtowns."

The other new appointees to the Board of Downtown New Jersey are Chris Bernardo, Julie Doran, Christina Fuentes, and Emily Mans.

“All our new Board members embody the spirit of downtown revitalization and bring talent, expertise, and energy to the table. We are very fortunate to have them on our team as we continue to strengthen New Jersey’s downtowns,” said Courtenay Mercer, Executive Director of Downtown New Jersey.

Chris Bernardo is president and CEO of Commercial District Services, LLC, a public space management firm focused on the revitalization of business districts and public spaces. He works closely with Special Improvement District stakeholders, municipal staff, and elected officials to implement a broad range of public space improvement programs, including Streetscape Beautification, Placemaking, Outdoor Maintenance and Sanitation, and Quality-of-Life Management.

Julie Doran is became Executive Director of the South Orange Village Alliance in August 2019. Prior to that, she worked as the SID Director in Maplewood, as the manager of the Maplewood Village Alliance (2008-2017), and the Springfield Avenue Partnership (2013-2019). She began her career in advertising and communications before finding her way downtown district management, where she was able to combine her professional experience with her love of downtowns and community building. 

Christina Fuentes is the Director of Small Business Services at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). In this role, she leads the NJEDA’s efforts to foster a dynamic, supportive environment for the State’s entrepreneurs and small businesses, with a focus on more comprehensively assisting historically underrepresented firms and underserved communities. 

Emily Manz is president of Newark-based EMI Strategies, which helps its clients celebrate place – creating fun, informative walking tours, leveraging free online tools like social media, and using relationship-based marketing strategies like earned media for her clients. She is also co-founder of Have You Met Newark Tours. Manz also focuses on being inclusive and ensuring an accurate depiction of a place’s population is reflected in marketing strategies, and local business owners are engaged.

Downtown New Jersey also announced the names of its Board Officers:

  • President: Bob Zuckerman, Board of Trustees, South Orange Village
  • Vice President: Jay Kruse, Regional Director of Engineering, ESE Consultants, Inc. (a division of Toll Brothers, Inc.)
  • Vice President: Jonathan Tyler, Senior Associate, Gensler
  • Treasurer: Vanessa Quijano, Director of Small Business Services, Jersey City Economic Development Corporation
  • Secretary: Sherry Cronin, Downtown Consultant

Downtown New Jersey (www.downtownnj.com) is a non-profit membership organization of individuals, businesses, developers, government agencies, and local and regional entities that are passionate about downtowns. Downtowns reflect our communities’ unique identities, provide a focal point, a convenient local place of commerce, and offer a sense of place where people can gather and truly be a community. Downtown New Jersey provides advocacy, education, and technical assistance resources dedicated to ensuring the vitality of our downtowns.

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