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Downtown Community Alliance Meeting Recap – April 11, 2019

The Downtown Bernardsville Community Alliance is a sub committee of Downtown Bernardsville (formerly referred to as Bernardsville Special Events). Officially launched April 11, 2019, this sub committee will be working towards uniting the businesses and residents in a way that will allow the entire community to communicate about what our town needs, what is working, what might not be working and what we can do to make strides to improve our town… TOGETHER.

Residents and Businesses were welcomed Thursday evening, April 11 to learn about who Downtown Bernardsville is, what makes us different from other groups in town, and what we plan to do to aid in the revitalization effort of Bernardsville.

Meet our current Board of Directors! Click here to read a brief description of our 2019 team.

How We Started
Downtown Bernardsville was formed almost by accident. Olivia Manning, president of the now 501 (c)4 non profit organization, just wanted to organize a festival for the town. After making a first attempt within a borough commissioned committee, the need to create a separate non profit entity allowed the goals of this group to eliminate politics and move forward planning and executing annual events for the town. The very first event, the Trunk or Treat & Fall Fest in October 2018 planned for a full outdoor festival and partnered with the Bernardsville Library to create a day of all ages. There were vendors, food, crafters, contests, and sadly, a nor’easter that prevented the outdoor portion from continuing. Nevertheless, the incredible team at the library not only created some amazing activities, but allowed our trunk participants tables inside for kids to continue the candy gathering. 1,600 attendees visited the library over the course of 4-6 hours that day, despite the weather.

What we set out to do was working. From there, we continued the momentum with the Holiday Cookie Crawl in December and Restaurant Week in January. Both events garnered incredible exposure for Bernardsville, with the Cookie Crawl announcement on 95.5 PLJ radio and, now, interest from the corporate offices of Lexus Cars to sponsor our restaurant week in 2020. This is the kind of exposure Bernardsville needs to grow.

Downtown Bernardsville Community Alliance Launch
The meeting continued on with details about the Downtown Bernardsville Community Alliance, which you can click this link to learn more about.

Downtown Municipal Revitalization Committee’s Role
We welcomed Paul Sedlak, a member of the Borough’s Downtown Revitalization Committee to help the crowd understand the municipality’s role in the revitalization process. Downtown Bernardsville will be working closely with this municipal committee as they continue efforts to develop the physique of the town, including unifying storefront facades and the Quimby Village project. For details about this project, refer to the current Request for Proposal (RFP) here. We look forward to assisting the Revitalization Committee as we build our exposure to New Jersey’s Main Street program and continue in our promotional efforts of the town.

New Business Grant Initiative
Additionally, Downtown Bernardsville is working toward developing a business grant to attract new businesses to town. The goal is to raise funds throughout the year during our events and via other methods to start building a fund that grant sponsors can match or donate to. We hope to build a fund that can either cover rent for a full year or provide other assistance to a new business looking to open up in our downtown. Details about how to apply for the grant and more are to come as we continue fundraising efforts throughout the year.

New Jersey State Main Street Program
Finally, Downtown Bernardsville will be pursuing New Jersey’s Main Street program this year. This program is a common denominator among all of our surrounding towns such as Somerville, Cranford, Morristown, Westfield and more. Our municipality and Chamber of Commerce would not be eligible to participate in this program as they are focused on other matters, even if they have a vested interest in revitalization. Downtown Bernardsville’s focus is the growth, promotion, and support of our community all in the name of revitalization. This makes our group the primary candidate to participate in the Main Street program. More to come on this topic as we attend a workshop hosted by the state of NJ on April 23.

Join a Committee or Offer Feedback About Events & the Town
If you would like to join an event planning committee, the DB Community Alliance Committee, or our Board of Directors, please contact Olivia Manning olivia@downtownbernardsville.com. We are looking for committed volunteers to assist with the planning of our events throughout the year as well as businesses to contribute to the promotional effort.

If you have ideas or feedback to share about our town or our events, please visit Downtown Bernardsville Community Alliance on Facebook or send us an email! Each future meeting with the community will include an open session for folks to share their thoughts, so make sure to attend our next meeting on July 11 at the Bernardsville Library!