Five NJ Cities Selected for Special Initiative to Revitalize Neighborhoods 
Local officials to join others from across nation at leadership institute


The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, in partnership with New Jersey Community Capital, the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison State College, and the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association, is pleased to announce that five NJ cities have been selected to participate in a unique new initiative from the Center for Community Progress.  The national organization specializes in the reuse of vacant, abandoned, and problem properties in America’s cities and towns.  Local leaders from Orange, Irvington, Newark, Jersey City, and Millville will be participating in a weeklong session to be held at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.  New Jersey is one of only four states chosen to participate in this national leadership institute focusing on adaptive reuse and turning vacant properties into community assets.

"New Jersey’s cities can help advance our state’s economic recovery by reusing vacant and abandoned properties,” said Diane Sterner, executive director of the Housing and Community Development Network.  “Productive use of these spaces will increase property tax revenue, lower crime, and make our cities more vibrant places.  Through this initiative, community developers and local officials can learn from each other and counter parts around the country.”

The Center for Community Progress, in partnership with the Cambridge Leadership Associates will provide intensive training and technical assistance on a variety of land reform concepts.  The session, which will be conducted from March 15-18, will specific strategies to gain control over and redevelop abandoned properties.  Taking into account the challenges with public policy in this area, the Harvard session will include a specific focus on the leadership roles that state and local officials must play to making productive reuse and revitalization happen.

The cities of Orange, Irvington, Jersey City, Newark, and Millville were selected due to their commitment to neighborhood revitalization strategies.  These cities have taken steps to improve their communities and have been eager to adopt new tools and strategies.

"This leadership institute aims to develop stronger community development organizations and more informed municipalities that are poised to tackle the problems of vacant and abandoned properties in their communities in new ways” said Wayne Meyer, president of New Jersey Community Capital. “We believe that the future of our cities relies on developing the capacity of our local government and nonprofit partners. We are pleased to partner with the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, the Urban Mayor’s Association, and the Center for Community Progress to leverage resources, share experiences, and collaborate to stabilize our communities.”

Following the Harvard session, Community Progress staff will conduct site visits to each community to work with local governments and community leaders in applying new ideas from the leadership institute to their locales.

"I'm looking forward to engaging with other governmental and nonprofit leaders from around the country to learn and share information on how we deal with Irvington's problem property challenges," said Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith, president of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association.  "The plight of abandoned properties is urban America's greatest challenge."

The Housing and Community Development Network is building an ongoing statewide working group to help local governments implement strategies, as well as identify and support changes to state policies with respect to abandoned and problem properties.

"Abandoned properties have long been obstacles to urban revitalization," said Barbara George Johnson, director of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison State College.  "Cities must have good public policy to provide them with the leverage they need to make properties and neighborhoods whole and attractive to families and businesses."

The Center for Community Progress is a non-profit group with offices in Flint, MI; Washington, D.C. and New Orleans dedicated to revitalizing and reinventing American cities.  To learn more, please visit  For more information on the Housing and Community Development Network, visit our website at  To learn more about New Jersey Community Capital, visit  Local officials from Orange, Irvington, Newark, Jersey City and Millville are available for comment by contacting Nina Arce at [email protected].

For more information: 

Nina Arce
Housing & Community Development Network of NJ
(609) 393-3752 x12
[email protected]
McCaela Daffern
New Jersey Community Capital
(609) 989-7766
[email protected]
Joe Guzzardo
John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy
(609) 777-3083 x2047
[email protected]