The Strategic Revitalization Plan (Plan) was completed by fourteen graduate students through a collaborative planning studio sponsored by the Department of Urban Planning and Policy Development and the Project Community initiative of the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University. The Plan received the 1997 Outstanding Comprehensive Planning Award from the American Planning Association's New Jersey Chapter in recognition of the student's service to this distressed community. The Plan was completed at the request of the Corinthian Housing Development Corporation, which has developed 45 units of affordable housing in this neighborhood and is about to start construction on 49 more homes. Corinthian was interested in developing a comprehensive approach to rebuilding their community. The students worked with Corinthian to develop a strategic plan for a 96 block portion of Newark's Central Ward (the city's poorest neighborhood and one of the nation's poorest as well) covering economic development (Volume 1), schools (Volume 2), residential development (Volume 3), and opens space/crime (Volume 4). Combining participatory planning and technological expertise, the students developed a plan which includes strong local input and sophisticated databases to enable Corinthian to guide the revitalization of its neighborhood.
Extensive primary and secondary data were collected and compiled into databases integrated with Arc Info and Arc View mapping software. For the economic development study, surveys and physical inventories were conducted to document conditions and business needs along the two main, albeit distressed, commercial corridors in the area: Springfield and South Orange Aves. Researchers went door-to-door and recorded the condition and existence of every structure and parcel on a two mile stretch of these roads (terminating at the Irvington border). Owners of neighborhood businesses were surveyed about their characteristics and needs for technical assistance. The results found "Islands of Strength" -- businesses which serve to anchor these corridors, and which will help Corinthian to create Special Improvement Districts. Most businesses had been in operation for over six years and some for more than twenty; many owners lived in the neighborhood or elsewhere in Newark; and most of the businesses employed local residents.
The residential development study focused on the best residential mix for future Corinthian developments, including surveys of current and future residents. An important product of the research was a database which included occupancy status and ownership of land in the area. The information was taken from tax assessors data. This database was also integrated into mapping software. The databases and mapping capacity developed for the economic and residential portions, as shown by the maps featured in the reports, has enabled Corinthian with a simple "point and click" to display the locations of every vacant parcel, with ownership status, in the neighborhood. Corinthian, with the same ease, is able to show the dispersion along the commercial corridors of every type of major commercial tenant such as auto services, food services, and houses of worship.
Two other important studies were also conducted. Volume 2 of the Plan focused on the three schools in the neighborhood. Parents and educators were surveyed about the various programs offered in the schools, levels of parent participation, and ways to involve more parents in school activities. One of the strengths found in the schools was an array of programs to support children and parents such as after-school programs at all three schools (one program was open till 9:00 p.m.). Volume 4 examined the West Side Park, a county owned facility, and assisted in gathering information to develop a conservancy to restore this scarce open space resource tarnished by years of neglect. The study surveyed local residents about crime activity and park usage. A significant finding was the support of an overwhelming majority of residents surveyed to become involved in the park's restoration. The research played a key role in helping Corinthian get federal funding to improve safety at the park and provided information for a $1 million proposal to the state to restore the facility.
A companion study to the SRP, the West Side Park Neighborhood: A Historical Perspective, documents changes in the socio-economic status of the area since the 1950's. The work also includes photos and descriptions of historical places in the neighborhood dating back to the early twentieth century.