The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) is partnering with the City of Hackensack and the Together New Jersey (TNJ) consortium to develop a plan for converting the downtown Demarest Place pedestrian walkway into an ART Walk. This project was selected to receive up to $20,000 in technical assistance through TNJ’s Local Technical Assistance Program, which is funded by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.
The funding provides staff support from the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University (RU-VTC) to develop a conceptual plan for Demarest Plan supporting the City’s project, “ART Walk: Activating Demarest Place via the Arts”. Hackensack was one of only two projects selected for technical assistance this year.
TNJ is a consortium of more than 100 public, private, and non-profit partners that developed North Jersey’s first comprehensive plan for sustainable development in 2015. RU-VTC provides technical assistance services to support local initiatives that advance the focus areas and strategies from the TNJ Plan.
The technical assistance services complement the City of Hackensack’s urban renaissance with over $1 billion in redevelopment projects taking place in the downtown area. Upon completion of the ‘ART Walk’, this area will serve as an arts experience and destination within the City and as an inviting gateway into the downtown area connecting the NJ TRANSIT bus terminal to the City’s Hackensack Performing Arts Center.
“As we continue working to revitalize Downtown Hackensack, we have made a strong commitment to supporting the arts, and this innovative ART Walk program will be another great step in that process. Public art projects help create a strong sense of place and bring energy and vibrancy to our city. The City Council and I are proud of this effort to embrace the arts in our community,” said Mayor John Labrosse.
NNJCF: A Coalition Partner
The project also brings together a coalition of partners, including the NNJCF’s ArtsBergen initiative, Creative Hackensack, and key departments from the City of Hackensack. The NNJCF’s ArtsBergen is also a leader in creative placemaking in the region. Furthermore, the initiative serves as the primary arts partner in the Activating Demarest Place through the Arts project. Creative placemaking is the practice of integrating arts and culture into the fabric of a region, town, or city block to build more vibrant communities and stronger local economies. Over the last four years, NNJCF’s ArtsBergen led Hackensack’s creative placemaking initiatives. This was done in partnership with the City of Hackensack, the Hackensack Creative Arts Team, the Main Street Business Alliance, and local artists.
The TNJ technical assistance team will review past findings, assemble stakeholders, and engage with and gather data from the public. Furthermore, this work builds on previous placemaking efforts involving the collection of public input through the arts about what community members and Demarest Place users want to see and experience on Demarest Place and Main Street. The NNJCF’s ArtsBergen continues its project development and management role.
“Working with Together North Jersey is a wonderful opportunity to develop a more comprehensive plan of the ‘ART Walk’ at Demarest. Their help also reinforces our work to garner feedback from community members frequenting the area, as well as current business owners and developers. This ensures a strategic walkway connecting the bus terminal and the Hackensack Performing Arts Center becomes an attractive and relevant public space for those who use it,” said Danielle De Laurentis, Associate Director, NNJCF.
Creative Placemaking in Hackensack
Since 2015, NNJCF’s ArtsBergen initiative has partnered with the City of Hackensack, the Hackensack Creative Arts Team (CAT), and the Hackensack Main Street Alliance, assisting in using creative placemaking to integrate arts and culture into the Main Street redevelopment plan. To achieve the plan’s goals, ArtsBergen has worked extensively with CAT on many projects. These include the Demarest Place Walkway Mural ‘Greetings from The Sack, New Jersey. Another project was ‘The Hacktivator’ a temporary live, interactive art installation at a NJ TRANSIT Bus Station in Hackensack. The project also gathered commuters’ feedback about what they would like to see on Demarest Place. ArtsBergen assisted managed the Main Street Alliance’s ‘Live Painting on Vintage Doors’ at the Downtown Hackensack MAIN Music Art Brew & Fare.