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Challenge Grant Program
The goal of the Regional Center Challenge Grant Program is to help achieve the broadly accepted Regional Center Partnership Vision that includes downtown redevelopment, neighborhood revitalization, connecting the three subcenters, and using natural resources to shape development consistent with community planning initiatives. This program makes available grants of up to $15,000 per project. Funding is made available on a year-to-year basis depending on other planned work program activities. To date, the Regional Center Partnership Challenge Grant program has awarded $1,134,500 to help each community advance local projects that resolve or mitigate regional problems and advance the goals of the Regional Center Strategic Plan.
2017 Regional Center Partnership Challenge Grants for Pedestrian Safety Enhancement
The goal of the Challenge Grant Program for Pedestrian Safety Enhancement is to help make the Regional Center more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly, to help advance the goals and recommendations identified in the Regional Center Strategic Plan and Background Report (e.g, health and wellness), and to reinforce the work of RideWise Transportation Management Agency (TMA) in working with towns to advance pedestrian and bicycle mobility through the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority-StreetSmart campaign. Since this is the first time the Regional Center Partnership (RCP) has offered a Challenge Grant program devoted exclusively towards enhancing pedestrian safety, RCP regards this to be a pilot project.
RCP approved grants of up to $15,000 per Regional Center town for the following pedestrian safety enhancement Challenge Grant proposals:
Somerville Borough: School Pedestrian Improvements
Somerville utilized the grant funding to increase visibility of the crosswalks around Somerville High School and Somerville Middle School with proper signage and improvements where school children walk to and from school. The project was completed before the 2018-2019 school year began. In September, Somerville Police gave an in-school education presentation at both schools about the importance of bike and pedestrian safety.
Raritan Borough (two projects)
1st project: 2018 Somerset Street StreetSmart Campaign
In the summer of 2018 Raritan Borough Police Department partnered with RideWise TMA to undertake an eight-week StreetSmart education and enforcement campaign along a designated section of West Somerset Street. The StreetSmart campaign included educational materials and measures to reinforce law-abiding behavior and to discourage law-breaking behavior by pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. Data was collected before and after the campaign for analysis to determine program effectiveness.
2nd project: Traffic Striping Improvements: As a separate project, Raritan will be using part of the grant funding to make pedestrian crosswalk striping improvements at designated intersections in town.
Bridgewater Township: Commons Way Pedestrian Crossing Signals and ADA Ramp
Bridgewater Township is utilizing grant funding to upgrade four Township-owned traffic lights at four intersections along Commons Way: Crossings Boulevard, Prince Rodgers Avenue, Fifth Street, and Garretson Road. Bridgewater will partner with Somerset County’s Traffic Light Division to install and upgrade pedestrian crossing signals and countdown timers. The Township is also installing an ADA-compliant handicap ramp at Commons Way and Hanlon Road where a crosswalk will be installed across Commons Way to connect with an existing sidewalk along the high school side of Commons Way. The overall objective is to improve pedestrian safety in the Bridgewater Commons Mall area as well as the Municipal Complex, high school, and sports fields.
2017 Regional Center Partnership Challenge Grants for Creative Placemaking
The goal of the Challenge Grant Program for Creative Placemaking is to help advance the goals of the Regional Center particularly to help strengthen the economic vitality of our downtown and Main Street districts. Creative placemaking leverages the power of the arts, culture and creativity that helps bring the community together, supports tourism and the local economy, and helps attract people to downtown and Main Street areas. Partners from public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood or town around arts and cultural activities or assets. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, and improves local business visibility and public safety. Since this is the first time RCP has offered a grant program involving creative placemaking, RCP considers this to be a pilot project.
In June, 2018 RCP received two creative placemaking grant proposals which were reviewed and approved for $15,000 each:
Raritan Borough: Raritan Borough Bench Art Project
Raritan has proposed a Bench Art Project consisting of selected artwork that will be transferred onto vinyl wrapping to be applied onto existing benches along Somerset Street. Raritan’s Historic & Cultural (H&C) Commission will hold a community art contest to solicit designs illustrating Raritan’s history and assets in which selected artworks will be applied to vinyl wraps to be installed on up to 34 existing benches along Somerset Street. The project will complement Raritan’s ongoing economic revitalization initiatives. In conjunction with this project, the Raritan H&C Commission intends to partner with Raritan’s Community Events Coordinator to plan for and hold an unveiling event in conjunction with an arts festival to be held in town.
Somerville Borough: Find Your Place in Somerville
Somerville proposes to have on display five art sculptures created by world-renowned Seward Johnson Atelier with the goal of creating an opportunity for residents to interact with 3-D art works and to enhance the dining, shopping, and visiting experience in Somerville. The art sculptures will be positioned in five different locations along Main Street and Borough parks. The Borough plans to feature sculptures from Seward Johnson Atelier Collection “Celebrating the Familiar” and “Seeing Beyond the Frame” series which have been shared by other towns in New Jersey on a rotating schedule. Some of the Challenge Grant funding would be used to undertake a variety of art-related activities in conjunction with the sculptures, including an exhibit in the Somerville library of a visual explanation of the Lost Wax Method of casting bronze sculptures, educational components in coordination with local schools, fun fact sheets of Impressionist artists, and/or walking tours of the town.