The final Together North Jersey Regional Plan, published in November 2015, was presented the American Planning Association- New Jersey chapter’s Outstanding Plan Award, which recognizes a plan of unusually high merit, at the APA-NJ Annual Planning Conference Awards Luncheon on Friday, January 29.
Together North Jersey was the product of an innovative federal partnership among U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Agency to create an Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In the context of this partnership, HUD created the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program to support metropolitan and multijurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure plans and to empower jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic growth and revitalization, access to opportunity, public health, and environmental impact simultaneously.
In August 2011, the Bloustein School submitted an application on the behalf of a coalition of government agencies, non-profit organizations, and others to create Together North Jersey. The partnership was unique in its diversity and reach. The project team included the Bloustein School, Build One NJ, Housing and Community Development Network of NJ, North Jersey Transportation Authority, NJ Transit, New Jersey Future, Office for Planning Advocacy, PlanSmart NJ, Regional Plan Association, and Sustainable Jersey. The coalition was awarded a $5 million dollar grant from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and along with nearly $5 million in leveraged funds, dedicated 3+ years towards developing the first regional plan for North Jersey and implementing 40+ local projects on the ground.
Working together over three years, the project team—with input from thousands of residents, businesses, local leaders and other stakeholders from around the region, —created the Together North Jersey Regional Plan. The content of the plan was the culmination of an extensive planning process that included community workshops, stakeholder meetings, non-profit and local-level planning partnerships, pop-up kiosks, and an innovative engagement partnership with NJ.com.
The plan lays a vision, strategies, and specific actions for working together and is intended to serve as a blueprint for creating a more competitive, efficient, livable and resilient future for North Jersey. The plan also has a strong focus on equity, looking not only at overall improvements to the region, but ways in which the region can close the growing inequality gap in North Jersey.
The first section presents “Where we are now,” and describes the region’s strengths and assets as well as many of the issues and challenges facing North Jersey. “Where we want to go” lay outs Together North Jersey’s priority goals—to grow a strong and inclusive regional economy, increase access to opportunity, protect the environment, and work together—and also outlines a vision for the region based on the shared values and common interests uncovered during the planning process, namely, to become more competitive, livable, efficient, and resilient.
The next section explains “How we get there,” proposing 70+ strategies, including specific short, medium, and long term actions, to achieving this vision across 15 key Focus Areas. “Leading the way” explains how TNJ has already proven success through dozens of local planning activities the coalition organized and funded over the past three years. These activities both informed the Plan and demonstrated how diverse communities and municipalities facing common challenges can effectively collaborate to develop a shared vision and plan for a sustainable future. Finally, “Making it all happen” proposes how the region can achieve the TNJ vision by aligning policies, fostering policy and planning innovation, taking action at the local level, and continuing to work together.
The completion of the plan itself is only part of Together North Jersey’s success. The process of developing the plan has already resulted in government agencies, counties, municipalities, non-profits, residents, and business owners reaching across borders and boundaries to realize what can happen when we work together. In 2016, with the plan now in place, the partners of Together North Jersey will continue to work together through a new Together North Jersey Caucus supported by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. The Together North Jersey Caucus will build on the momentum generated during the planning phase with a focus on plan implementation. Together North Jersey is an innovative, unique and powerful planning partnership and will continue to provide a forum for regional collaboration moving forward.
Together North Jersey was also the recipient of the PlanSmart NJ Regional and Community Planning Achievement Award, presented in November.
Click here to download the Together North Jersey Regional Plan, or visit the Together North Jersey website for more information.