The Metuchen model: Downtown Metuchen wins Great American Main Street Award

The Metuchen model: Downtown Metuchen wins Great American Main Street Award

Writer: Joshua Andino

2 min read   March 2023— A revitalized Downtown Metuchen has won the Great American Main Street Award. 

Presented to the Metuchen Downtown Alliance on Monday by Main Street Now at its March 27 Main Street Now Conference in Boston, the award recognizes the MDA for their excellence in preservation-based commercial district revitalization. 

“Metuchen Downtown Alliance’s ability to leverage the Main Street Approach to achieve such remarkable change in just seven years is astounding,” said Main Street America Interim President & CEO Hannah White in the release. She added, “Their unwavering commitment to transparent organizational leadership, inclusive place activation and ‘shop local’ community identity provides an inspiring model for success.”  

The MDA – and Metuchen itself, has come a long way since the MDA’s 2016 founding, when the business district dealt with an over 20% vacancy rate and struggled to retain businesses in the corridor. Today, the area is home to 387 new apartments, 144 businesses that include 19 new restaurants, cafes and bakeries, as well as site activation and event programming such as Pride on the Plaza, Juneteenth, Lunar New Year and the Hispanic Heritage Celebration. Today, Metuchen’s downtown vacancy rate hovers at a low 4%. The growth has led to $5.5 million in annual revenues. 

Main Street New Jersey State Coordinator Gina Fischetti noted in the release, “In a relatively short time, and with exceptional creativity and organization, Metuchen Downtown Alliance has become a leader not only in the New Jersey Main Street community but the national Main Street community as well.” Fischetti added, “Through the leadership of past Director Isaac Kramer and current Director Dawn Mackey, the dedication of countless volunteers and the hard work and guidance of past state coordinators, Metuchen is not only a wonderful place to visit, but a wonderful place to live as well. MSNJ is thrilled that Downtown Metuchen has been recognized for its hard work as a Great American Main Street Award winner!”

With the award, Metuchen joins Westfield and Montclair as the only two other New Jersey downtowns to receive the award, winning in 2004 and 2015, respectively. For this year, the other 2023 honorees included Danville, VA’s River District Association and Downtown Florence Main Street, in Florence, South Carolina.

The MDA has a sole full-time employee, its executive director, who helps coordinate and organize alongside a dedicated team of volunteers. Together, the MDA team has contributed over 25,000 service hours, or over $641,000 worth of work to rejuvenate the Downtown area.

“To achieve this recognition so quickly is truly awe inspiring,” said Mackey, who was appointed to lead the organization in October last year. “As an outsider with intimate insight into other small downtowns, I can confidently say that Metuchen is incredibly unique and the secret ingredient here is the community. When volunteers, the municipality, landlords, and businesses put their hearts into one mission, the results are pure magic. I could not be more proud of the work this team has done and am excited for this opportunity to introduce Metuchen, officially as a Great American Main Street. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

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