One of just six projects selected, the Smart Growth Award recognizes groundbreaking contributions to making New Jersey communities sustainable and strong.
The North Trenton / Battle Monument Choice Neighborhood Plan puts forth a vision to transform New Jersey’s largest public housing development and surrounding neighborhood into a thriving mixed-income community.
The plan centers around the redevelopment of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (MLK) as a vibrant, walkable main street and central gathering place for the community that lives up to its name. The street is slated to become a Complete Street and serve as a pilot project for the city’s new Complete Street program. The plan also aims to breathe new life into a beloved historic school, the long dormant Junior No. One that occupied a stunning Georgian building on MLK. It also strives to ignite economic development and further reinvestment along this main street corridor that leads directly into the heart of the state capitol.
As the Planning Coordinator, WRT led a community-driven planning process to establish aspirational yet achievable goals, strategies, and clear metrics to reimagine the future of housing, specifically the transformation of Donnelly Homes, building health and wealth of North Trentonians, and outlining key neighborhood improvements.
The plan represents more than 24 months of engagement and collaboration among residents and a host of community stakeholders during a global pandemic. It also builds upon a unique newly formed partnership with Capital Health called the Trenton Neighborhood Initiative to address policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change and promote healthy behaviors. Other key partners included the Trenton Housing Authority, Trenton Division of Planning, Isles, Inc., and Trenton Health Team.
The plan responds to the voices of the community, especially those from Donnelly Homes residents, and focuses on three goals: Reversing, Reimagining, and Rebuilding.
• Reversing – Change the decline of the North Trenton and Battle Monument neighborhoods through targeted demolition, stabilization, and infill investment.
• Reimagining – Reintegrate Donnelly Homes into the street grid, breathing new life into the vacant Junior 1 School building, nurturing local businesses, fostering meaningful employment, enhancing safety, strengthening connections to assets, and improving services in the North Trenton and Battle Monument neighborhoods.
• Rebuilding – Generate wealth among North Trentonians by integrating homeownership opportunities in addition to new rental units through a 550-unit mixed-income, mixed-tenure, mixed-unit housing plan for the neighborhood.
According to NJ Future.org:
The plan offers an ambitious commitment to values of smart growth and community engagement, which embodies the spirit of this award. The engagement and coordination between local and state governments, nonprofits, and community members in the development of the plan provides for a promising collaboration for its implementation in North Trenton. The team hopes that this honor will be a precursor to funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in the future. By promoting the connectivity, affordability, and accessibility of North Trenton and the Battle Monument area, this plan offers significant promise towards facilitating a sustainable, inclusive community for all who live, work, and play in Trenton.
The project team—which includes members from the Trenton Housing Authority; City of Trenton’s Division of Planning; Isles, Inc; The Michaels Organization; Trenton Neighborhood Initiative; and Wallace Roberts and Todd—has sought active participation and engagement from the Trenton community in developing this robust plan. These efforts at public outreach allowed community members to engage their expertise and lived experiences in the roles of local historians and community advocates, significantly shaping the design of the plan.
The Smart Growth Awards Virtual Celebration will be held in November. More information can be found here: 2022 Smart Growth Awards | New Jersey Future (njfuture.org)