Brian Lankin knows the power of revitalization.
More than a decade ago, Lankin, president of Al’s Shoes on Landis Avenue in Vineland, decided to have the shop’s facade redone.
A few years ago, the Al’s Shoes was renovated to get the name of the store in a rectangular box above the front glass windows and the entrance way. A stylized capital “A” at the beginning of the sign is the only letter that extends beyond the borders of the box. A giant black footprint is used an an exclamation point at the end of the word “shoes.”
Lankin received such a good response from the public about what he did to the outside of his business he decided to do renovations to the interior, also.
“I felt obligated to fix the inside,” Lankin said. “They put all new flooring, all new paint, new lighting, a new ceiling. If you invest on the outside facade, it makes you want to invest on the inside.”
The city and Millville are among the 33 municipalities are hoping to revitalize their downtowns with money from the state this year.
Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver, who commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, will make the announcement at 11 a.m. Monday on the front lawn of the Eagle Theatre on Vine Street in Hammonton.
In South Jersey, 2019 Main Street New Jersey grants have been awarded to: Bridgeton, Hammonton, Millville and Vineland.
A second type of grant, known as the 2019 Neighborhood Preservation Program, also was distributed. The South Jersey communities that received this money are Cape May, Egg Harbor City, Hammonton, Millville and Pleasantville.
Main Street Vineland recently received a $20,500 transformation grant from the Main Street New Jersey Program and will use the grant award for a facade improvement program called Operation Facelift.
Operation Facelift is a variation of a program with a similar purpose from several years ago, the program Lankin used, that resulted in several new facades and a new look to Vineland’s downtown.
“Any business in the Main Street-designated district can apply for a grant,” said Russell J. Swanson, executive director of the Vineland Downtown Improvement District. “They will be able to fund a project cost up to $7,500, of which 75 percent we will pay, and 25 percent will be paid for by the property owner or the tenant.”
There is the possibility Vineland will have an additional $20,500 to disperse for businesses to make physical improvements.
The city also has applied to Thrive South Jersey, a partnership between New Jersey Community Capital and the Pascale Sykes Foundation, for an additional $3,000 grant.
Also in Cumberland County, the Millville Development Corporation recently received a transformation grant from the Main Street New Jersey program and will use the $15,000 grant award to remove the fountain on the Glasstown Plaza at High and Sassafras streets, said Marianne K. Lods, executive director of the Millville Development Corp.
The fountain on the plaza no longer works and will be replaced with a human-size checkerboard, Lods said. This will allow for more performance space for events and encourage families to use it for fun activities, she said.
New mini murals also will be created on three buildings in the Glasstown Arts District, Lods said.
A 10-foot high by 12-foot long mural will cover the south end wall of the tunnel, which has graffiti on it and is located across the street from the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts on North High Street.
The tunnel is a former stable where horse owners paid to keep their horses during the late 1800s and early 1900s, Lods said.
“At our Third Friday evenings, our exhibition nights, often times, we have had musicians set up in there. They love it. They love the acoustics, so we thought the theme of the mural should definitely be music,” Lods said.
The Main Street New Jersey grants are funding awards of $25,000 or less aimed at assisting downtown business district projects such as storefront improvement, place-making and transformation strategies development that can be completed in six months or less, said Lisa M. Ryan, spokeswoman, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
The Neighborhood Preservation Program provides direct financial and technical assistance to municipalities over 3- to 5-year period to conduct activities that strengthen threatened but viable neighborhoods, Ryan said.
Eligible activities for the $125,000 grants include code enforcement, commercial retail and residential property renovations, community development planning, historic preservation, public facilities improvement and support of community / neighborhood organizations, Ryan said.
Municipal grantees had to show a commitment of resources from the neighborhood and municipality as well as support from community organizations and residents, Ryan said.