The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is re-launching a program to help suburban towns repurpose vacant retail and office properties.

The Economic Development Authority says this program is an important component of Gov. Phil Murphy's plan to invest in communities. Authority CEO Tim Sullivan said with New Jersey's economy in transition, what was a store or a strip shopping center or an office complex may now be empty — "we see these kind of challenges in these kinds of sites quite frequently."

The EDA has earmarked five grants of up to $50,000 for New Jersey cities and towns to undertake planning and redevelopment of sites under the "21st Century Redevelopment Program."

"Sometimes these are opportunities to completely change the use entirely and turn an office building into housing or into mixed-use development," Sullivan said. "And that requires coordination with the infrastructure, coordination with local planning boards and town or city councils."

In the planning process, they "articulate a vision for what they'd like to see happen with one of these kinds of properties," he said.

"If you think about breaking some of these properties down to smaller pieces that are home to start ups, hometown young-growing companies, we think these can be the engines of growth," Sullivan said.

To read Governor Murphy's full economic plan, please visit: https://nj.gov/economicplan

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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