Armed with a new tagline - "Discover Downtown" - and a passion for their neighborhood, the officials have begun a public push to redefine perceptions of the once-downtrodden region that has seen a recent upswing.
The SID represents local businessmen and merchants who pool resources to make improvements in their area. The state-run Urban Enterprise Zone program provides matching funds to the local SID budgets through the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC) and the municipal government.
The Historic Downtown SID, which was formed in 1997, is one of four SIDs in Jersey City. The others are located at Journal Square, McGinley Square and Central Avenue.
The 16-block Historic Downtown district of Jersey City - centered on Newark Avenue, Jersey Avenue and Grove Street - is now home to more than 175 businesses, including a growing assortment of restaurants and shops.They see a destination
Megan O'Sullivan, the new president of the Historic Downtown SID and owner of Tia's Place, a home goods and clothing store on Grove Street, said that she and her colleagues at the SID are planning a number of public events - a winter holiday event at City Hall, concerts, and street fairs - in an effort to position Historic Downtown Jersey City to residents, businesses and visitors.
The group's events schedule began on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12, with a promotional shopping weekend that featured discounts and freebies at 17 shops and eateries in the downtown area.
Participating businesses included Antheia Floral Design, Yoga Shunya, The Merchant Restaurant & Bar, Tia's Place, N-Joyable Hair Design, Zen Garage, GNC, Woof n' Wash, Hourglass Fine Foods, Hudson Camera, l.i.t.m., Gold Coast Fitness Center, David Jewelers, Gallerie Hudson, Beechwood Café, Rachel, and Marco & Pepe.
Next spring will see several more of the SID's new initiatives, including a "Designer Show House" at the Barrow Mansion that will showcase stylish home décor items.
Other events planned for the spring include live music from local bands and movies on the lawn outside of City Hall.
"The goal is really for us to make it a destination where people want to spend the day and attend events," O'Sullivan said.
Other members of the SID seconded O'Sullivan, noting that Historic Downtown has many salable features - like restaurants of diverse ethnicities and dozens of independently run shops.
"The Downtown district is great - it's so diverse, there are a lot of things to do," said Elizabeth L. Young, the new secretary for the Historic Downtown SID and a property owner in the district. "It's growing exponentially."
That growth is most tangible in a number of large construction projects now underway in the district, the most notable of which is the Grove Pointe luxury housing complex, near the new entrance for the Grove Street PATH station on Christopher Columbus Drive.
Ground was broken in May on what will be a 29-story, 525-unit complex, and the project's developers will also renovate a park located near the Grove Street station. New group, new plans
Seven of the Historic Downtown SID board's nine members were voted into office this past May, promising big changes.
One of the new group's first acts was to restructure how the SID does business, replacing a full-time paid administrator and staff with mostly volunteers, supplemented by a part-time bookkeeper and a part-time administrator.
Stuart Koperweis, former head of the city's Economic Development Corporation and current part-time administrator for the Historic Downtown SID, called the new group's plans "the next generation of the Improvement District."
"It really is evolving," he added.
Other current members of the Historic Downtown SID board are: Marcelo Kruschewsky Duarte (vice president), Elizabeth Young (secretary), Sawyer Smith (treasurer), Beata Kaczkowska, Angela Karpowicz Schwartz, David O'Brien, Jerry Blankman and George Mercado.
Outgoing members of the SID have said they have high expectations for the new group and its methods.
"They seem like a young and energetic board who want to take a hands-on approach to running the SID," said Pete Klapper, former vice-president of the Historic Downtown SID and the owner of Hudson Camera on Newark Avenue, in August.
Young stressed that all of the SID's members - new and old - are united in their goals.
"We're all working together to make a better Jersey City," she said. Challenging perceptions
The Historic Downtown SID's new officials admit that they still have an uphill battle in combating negative public perceptions of Jersey City.
When O'Sullivan first told her friends and colleagues of her plans to open a shop in Jersey City last year, "They thought I was crazy," she said.
But O'Sullivan, who worked for several years in Jersey City's financial district, saw a neighborhood that has been transformed in the last decade. "It's not what it was 10 years ago," she said.
O'Sullivan told Jersey City Magazine last spring that the Historic Downtown district appealed to her because she felt it has a strong sense of community.
"When I was looking to do the store, I looked all over," she said. "But I really liked the neighborhood here. It's such a neighborhood feel for an urban area. The people around here are really nice, really supportive. It's a great, eclectic group of people."
O'Sullivan and her colleagues at the SID say that with any luck, they'll get others to see what they see in the Historic Downtown neighborhood.
For more information about the Historic Downtown SID and its upcoming events and plans, visit www.jcdowntown.com.