WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Downtown West Orange Alliance (DWOA) was recently one of 17 downtown district organizations in the state to be awarded a Main Street New Jersey (MSNJ) grant to help improve the quality of life in West Orange by assisting the township with its downtown and neighborhood revitalization efforts.

When Acting Governor Sheila Oliver announced the award of $2.5 million in Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP) grants to 20 municipalities, it was also announced that the DWOA would receive $20,250 of the nearly $350,000 being distributed in MSNJ grants.

“We are very excited to receive one of just a few grants being offered by the newly reinstated Main Street NJ program,” said Megan Brill, DWOA executive director. “Once we learned that Gov. Murphy agreed to put the Main Street program back into this year’s budget, we were hopeful some of the items that Main Street NJ previously funded would be available to us again.”

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Brill explained that the funds will be used toward “a project that has been in the idea stages for some time,” which is to repair the concrete work in the alley between Supreme Bakery and the Subway located in the St. Marks section of downtown.

“This area leads from one of our larger parking lots to our Main Street & St Marks Square, so we submitted a grant for the creation of ‘Edison Alley,’” she said. “We will repair the concrete walkway, add a mural to the dull cement wall, update the bollard with LED fixtures and add Edison sting lighting over the top of the alley. In addition, we will add some cool metal artwork to the greenery around the square.”

Brill added that the goal of applying for this grant was to create a sense of “place” in the area. She noted that because the courtyard in front of PNC Bank is underutilized, the DWOA plans to put small, café-style tables and chairs in the courtyard in order to “encourage people to buy lunch from the businesses in the area, read the paper and/or just hang out downtown.” 

“The Downtown Alliance is looking forward to all the benefits the Main Street NJ program provides our community,” said Brill. “We will work closely the Main Street administration to keep promoting the benefits of our downtown.”

This year marks the first time in its 30-year history that the MSNJ Program has awarded grants to designated MSNJ district organizations around the state. According to the governor’s office, the grant funding is part of a larger effort by the Murphy Administration to “commit more resources to community revitalization programs that focus on small businesses and neighborhood improvement projects.”

“We are renewing our commitment to community revitalization and to these worthwhile programs after years of neglect by the previous administration,” said Oliver, who serves as commissioner to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). "Gov. Murphy and I recognize how important these programs are to the economic and social health of our communities, which is why we have invested significant resources in them. The grant funding will be used to create places filled with energy and ambience that draw people to live, work and visit. We can’t wait to see how they positively impact neighborhoods and downtowns around the state.”

Municipalities must apply to be selected for the MSNJ program, which was established in 1989 as a way for the state to help municipalities improve the economy, appearance and image of their central business districts through the organization of local citizens and resources.

This year, designated communities were eligible for MSNJ grants of $25,000 or less for projects such as storefront improvement, placemaking and transformation strategies development that can be completed in six months or less, according to the governor’s office.

“We have enjoyed the benefits of the Main Street program in West Orange for many years we welcome the state’s help in developing our downtown corridor and are looking forward to next steps,” said John McElroy, chair of the DWOA.

Jerry Guarino, president of the West Orange Township Council and liaison to the DWOA, extended gratitude to Gov. Murphy and Oliver “for their support of the Main Street NJ program.” 

“Over the years, our relationship with Jef Buehler (of MSNJ) and his team has provided great support and assistance in helping us with our downtown organization,” said Guarino.

For more information on the MSNJ program and grants, click HERE.