SOMERVILLE, NJ - Downtown Somerville has been named one of New Jersey’s “Great Places” by the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA).

Other Great Downtowns recognized by APA-NJ in 2016 include Downtown Red Bank and Downtown Clinton.  APA-NJ also honored Roosevelt Plaza Park, Camden County, Memorial Park, Maplewood and the Middlesex Greenway in Middlesex County as Great Public Spaces.

According to the APA, the designation celebrates places of exemplary character and quality that represent “the gold standard” for the state’s downtowns in terms of demonstrating a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for tomorrow.

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“Effective partnerships between downtown Somerville’s stakeholders are an essential component to the well-deserved recognition we are now receiving,” said Tom Genova, president of the Downtown Somerville Alliance (DSA). “We all share a vision for a vibrant and thriving downtown, and for Somerville to continue to be recognized as Somerset County’s Downtown, a regional destination for shopping, dining and entertainment as well as a great place to live or open a business.”

Great Places in America was started by the APA in 2007 to recognize the streets, neighborhoods and other public spaces that contribute to great communities and benefit the people who live, work and visit.

They offer their own unique attributes, but all share a common background characterized by forward-thinking and planning accomplished by partnerships between municipalities, residents, and property and business owners.

Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher pointed to cooperative efforts between the municipality and the DSA that have contributed to infrastructure improvements, including the award-winning Division Street Plaza, a pedestrian-friendly area at the heart of downtown Somerville that hosts events and activities year-round, drawing new businesses and residents to the area.

Additional projects borough-wide reflect increased demand and a desire to be connected to the downtown district. An apartment complex on Veterans Memorial Drive is under construction, with other residential development plans nearby under review by the Planning Board.

A recently approved mixed-use development on East Main Street and plans for redevelopment of other former commercial and industrial sites underscore the positive trend for both today’s Somerville and the future.

The DSA also recently launched a series of newly created television commercials that highlight the amenities, activities and attributes that contributed to downtown Somerville’s APA-NJ Great Places designation.

“Government, working cooperatively with the business community and investors, can help set the stage for redevelopment through planning and zoning regulations that contribute to the desirability of a downtown just as transit connectivity adds to a distinctive live-work-play atmosphere,” Gallagher said. “Ultimately, the success of a downtown depends on the ideas, energy and commitment of entrepreneurs who want to be a part of downtown Somerville because it is a great place to be.”

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