Three shore communities are among numerous municipalities that are vying for the 2014 People’s Choice Awards for Great Downtowns in New Jersey, a competition sponsored by the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-NJ).
The competition, which is open to public vote, covers the northern, central, and southern portions of the state, according to the non-profit planning organization.
In the central area, downtowns include Somerville, Red Bank, and Asbury Park. Somerville is currently in first place, with Asbury Park in third. Ocean City leads the southern area, which includes Collingswood (second place) and Millville.
A panel of planning professionals selected the contestants from nominations submitted by the public in July, and APA-NJ opened the voting on August 22. There are 10 finalists.
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In reviewing the nominations, the panel considered how well each downtown excels in the characteristics of a great downtown, including its functionality, vitality, parking and transportation options, business environment, and reputation.
“The standings in each of the three competitions have been in a state of flux since the voting began, but the closest race is taking place in Central New Jersey,” said Linda E. Wills, the APA-NJ's "Great Places" chair. “At any given point in time, two of the downtowns may be tied for first place or separated by only one to two votes, even as the third downtown trails by less than 120 votes.”
8,000 ballots have been cast in the competition, which ends at midnight on Friday, Sept. 26. Each winner will receive a plaque at a local award ceremony, a place on APA-NJ’s Great Places Map and, of course, bragging rights.
"I'm really not surprised at the level of interest that this competition has generated,” said Charles Latini, Jr., APA-NJ's president. “When downtowns are truly great, people love and support them. I'm curious to see where this goes as each town makes its final push for a first place finish."
You can vote for your favorite downtowns here.