By: Katie Francis, Follow South Jersey News Reporting Intern
SOUTH JERSEY — The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) announced Thursday that the Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP) is expanding, including seven South Jersey areas. Statewide, 20 communities are joining the program, which helps strengthen the economic health of these threatened but viable neighborhoods. It is also designed to encourage private investments in these communities. The addition of these 20 communities doubles the amount in the NPP with 40 neighborhoods now participating.
According to a press release from the Department of Community Affairs, the program “focuses on revitalizing neighborhoods that are beginning to decline through local planning and community participation and building local capacity and coordination to maximize grant funding and sustain neighborhood vitality.” The press release added that the DCA selected communities based on qualities such as community engagement, staffing capacity, readiness to proceed, NPP mission fit, feasibility of goals, neighborhood assets, distress level and past revitalization efforts.
Each community added will receive $125,000 in grant funding from the DCA, as well as a variety of technical assistance and training that the NPP offers. This includes support of local governments, nonprofit groups, and neighborhood district stakeholders. The funds granted by the NPP must be used for “neighborhood preservation and revitalization activities.” Such activities include housing and economic development, direct small business grants and projects improving or creating public recreational areas (gardens, splash pads, outdoor seating areas, etc.).
Out of the new neighborhoods being added to the program, seven are in South Jersey.
Camden County’s Parkside District is one of the newly designated NPP neighborhoods and has a “strong community-based alliance” that makes the neighborhood a good fit for the program.
The DCA says that South Gloucester City in Camden County is on the list for its “hidden gems.” According to the press release, the neighborhood has community assets for the program to focus on, such as Proprietor’s Park and Freedom Pier.
Also in Camden County, the Blackwood District in Gloucester Township is a candidate for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for small business grants and housing rehabilitation. The community is also focused on creating a strong arts scene.
Vineland City’s Southeast Center City District has multiple businesses along Landis Avenue. The program has a focus on Landis Theatre with hopes that the theatre and its historic charm could “serve as a basis for future marketing and branding initiatives” for the Cumberland County town.
The Pacific Avenue District in Wildwood is also on the list of additional NPP neighborhoods. The Cape May County community has potential for active business improvement, as well as multiple entertainment opportunities in close proximity to Wildwood beaches.
Another South Jersey shore town, Atlantic City’s Ducktown District, joins Wildwood in the Neighborhood Preservation Program. The district has plans for major flood remediation and has a promising relationship with nearby Stockton University.
The last South Jersey shore town joining the NPP is in Somers Point. The city’s Bay Avenue/Waterfront District has charm in its historic district, which includes the oldest surviving building in the county in Richard Somers Mansion.
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