I’ve got some great news for The Ave from which businesses and the public will benefit. Several years ago, we had a program called “Operation Facelift,” which enabled business owners to make façade improvements to their storefronts. Several businesses took advantage of that program and it resulted in contributing to a new look for The Ave.
Well, Operation Facelift is back, but in a better form and businesses are urged to take advantage of this initiative. Main Street Vineland recently received a $20,500 Transformation Grant from the Main Street New Jersey and is using the grant award for downtown façade improvement.
We’re excited because this is the first time in Main Street New Jersey’s 30-year history that it is awarding grants to Main Street districts in the state, and we will be beneficiaries of this. Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (which administers Main Street New Jersey) is also excited about this program. She sees downtown business districts as playing “an important role in the economic and social health of our communities.” That’s why she and Governor Phil Murphy want to commit more resources to community revitalization programs that focus on small businesses and neighborhood-improvement needs. That goes hand-in-hand with what the Main Street program is all about.
Here’s how the new Operation Facelift is going to work here. Unlike the previous program, which was a forgivable loan, this is an outright monetary grant. That removes the obligation to repay and other restrictions and obligations on the loan.
Businesses applying for the grant money will submit their proposals to a specially formed Design Review Committee. The grant will fund 75 percent of the cost of an eligible project up to $7,500, with the business funding the remaining 25 percent. Each proposal will go before the Design Review Committee, which will determine eligibility for the funds. The program starts immediately and projects must be completed by December 31, 2019.
This will be a tremendous boon to businesses and our entire downtown. The downtown is a community’s heart and soul and its health, more often than not, is a determining factor in whether people decide to choose that community to live and work in.
The pot may be sweetened even more. We’re applying to Thrive South Jersey—a partnership between New Jersey Community Capital and the Pascale Sykes Foundation—for an additional $3,000 grant. If that comes through, it’ll open this initiative up to even more possibilities and increase benefits all around.
I want to thank Main Street Vineland Associate Director Robert Scarpa, Design Team Chairperson Vanessa Sosa, and our grant writer, Robin Barbetti, for helping me jump through all the hoops and quickly make this initiative a reality for our downtown. Good things are surely on the way.
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Don’t forget about the final week of Play Streets for the year—this Friday, July 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sixth Street, between Landis Avenue and Elmer Street, closed off to traffic during those times. Play Streets is a collaboration with the Vineland Community Policing, as well as many other civic and non-profit organizations, along with Main Street Vineland, for youngsters to engage in games, projects, health-related activities, and other ways to get them outside and engaged in constructive activities. Among the participating organizations are Vineland Health Department, Vineland Municipal/City of Vineland, Vineland Police Department, Calvary Chapel Monarch Family Success Center, Make Move Club, Visions of Hope, Walter Rand Institute, Vineland Police Athletic League (PAL), Men Entwined, Higher Places Ministries, YMCA, Southwest Council, Daniel’s Den Community Center, and Rock of Salvation Church.