Beautification & safety improvements are in store for downtown lot and community event space

Main Street Highland Park (MSHP) will be the recipient of a $25,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to go towards revamping and improving a downtown parking lot for public use. The grant award was announced on July 17, 2019.

“The lot is much more than a parking lot — it essentially functions as our community gathering space for many events throughout the year,” said Rebecca Hersh, executive director of Main Street Highland Park, who made the compelling case for the grant with the state.

“Our town does not have any other public gathering space downtown, and as a result, a wide variety of events happen in this space, including the weekly farmers market, outdoor movies, downtown planting days, the tree lighting, the menorah lighting, Halloween festivities, a Small Business Weekend holiday artisan market, live music, and more.”

The goal of the project is to make physical and aesthetic improvements to the lot — which will continue to be used, as it currently has been, as a parking lot when no events are taking place there.

The project is partially paid for by the grant; the rest of the funds come from the nonprofit organization, Main Street Highland Park. The Borough of Highland Park, as the property owner of the parking lot, also is providing some of the amenities for the project, including the surface paving, the bicycle rack, and the bicycle repair station.

“This modest project will have a huge impact in the center of our town,” said Highland Park Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler. “The covered pavilion that this grant allows for, coupled with the Borough’s scheduled improvements to the parking lot, will create a more attractive and friendly space for our downtown activities, draw more people to our downtown, and help us to strengthen our community-building efforts.”

The project includes: repaving and restriping the lot; adding some electrical to allow for vendors to plug in; adding some decorative lighting so evening events are better lit; a covered pavilion at the very front of the lot near the sidewalk; a public art component; a new bicycle rack; a bicycle repair station; a way-finding sign to make the lot easier to locate; and a public information bulletin board. The lot will also continue to function as a public municipal parking lot.

“Main Street’s goal is to improve the vitality and resiliency of our downtown for our local businesses and the community at large,” said Ms. Hersh. “This project will continue to invest in the economic development that will help our town thrive, and continue to foster a walkable and bikeable town that improves local business activity, improves public health, and improves the environment.”

The project will be largely completed by December 31, 2019.

Main Street Highland Park, an independent nonprofit advocate for the downtown business district in Highland Park since 2002, is a member of the Main Street New Jersey program. The Main Street New Jersey Program was established in 1989 to support the revitalization of downtowns throughout the state. The State’s Department of Community Affairs designates selected communities to join the program. Through District Transformation Grants, these communities can receive support in restoring their Main Streets as centers of community and economic activity.

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