The Regional Center Partnership has supported a number of major projects and initiatives that have helped advance Regional Center goals. Since 1998, the Regional Center has helped attract approximately $130 million in federal and state funding for various construction projects and planning initiatives involving the Regional Center. Examples of projects supported by RCP include the Raritan River Greenway bike path system, downtown revitalization, enhancing mass transit connections, protecting natural resources, supporting job attraction and retention efforts, long-term visioning, and major transportation projects to implement critical highway safety improvements.
Here are some of the major projects and initiatives currently supported by the Regional Center Partnership:
Raritan River Greenway
One of the signature amenities of the Regional Center and Somerset County is the Raritan River Greenway, a linear system of interconnected pathways extending along the Raritan River through central Somerset County including Bridgewater, Raritan and Somerville. The Raritan River Greenway includes a multi-use pathway providing opportunities for walking, biking, jogging, sightseeing and access to fishing sites. The Raritan River Greenway extends through Duke Island Park, connects with the Peters Brook Greenway in Bridgewater and Somerville, and now extends from the Nevius Street pedestrian bridge in Raritan to connect with the North Gate entrance to Duke Farms in Hillsborough. The Raritan River Greenway is further discussed in the Somerset County Regional Center Strategic Plan under “Embracing the Raritan River.”
On October 16, 2013, the Regional Center Partnership of Somerset County and the Regional Center municipalities of Raritan and Somerville Boroughs and Bridgewater Township achieved a major milestone by attaining Plan Endorsement from the State Planning Commission. Plan Endorsement is a review process that ensures the coordination of state, county, and municipal planning efforts in achieving the goals and policies of the State Planning Act. Achieving Plan Endorsement re-established the Regional Center as a designated “Regional Center” for another ten years. The achievement culminated a nearly two-year process and confirmed the Regional Center of Somerset County as a model for multi-jurisdictional cooperative regional planning. With Plan Endorsement, the Regional Center is in a better position to receive financial and technical incentives to assist in accomplishing the goals for the Regional Center.
Somerset Count Investment Framework
A series of GIS-based infrastructure, community and environmental asset maps which form the basis of a “criteria-based approach” for identifying area most suitable for growth and preservation in Somerset County. The Somerset County Investment Framework (CIF) is based on extensive input from municipal, county and state officials, local and regional planners, the business community and other stakeholders. The Regional Center of Somerset County is one of 24 “Priority Growth Investment Areas” identified in the CIF. In April 2014 the Somerset County Planning Board adopted the CIF as an element of the Somerset County Master Plan. The CIF serves as the geographic basis for all County planning projects and initiatives, including the Somerset County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).
Somerset County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)
The Somerset County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy A Collaborative Blueprint for Economic Success is a report prepared by the Somerset County Business Partnership that identifies and prioritizes economic development strategies to further job creation and private-sector investment in our region of central New Jersey. The CEDS is built on nine (9) Priority Focus Areas; within these 9 Priority Focus Areas are 33 Goals supported by nearly 200 discreet projects, programs, and activities. The Somerset County CEDS report was adopted in April 2014 by the Somerset County Planning Board as an element of the Somerset County Master Plan.
Supporting Priority Investment in Somerset County
The Supporting Priority Investment in Somerset County Initiativeis a multi-year, multi-phase effort to advance and implement the Somerset Count Investment Framework (CIF) and the Somerset County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). This initiative supports opportunities for local and regional smart growth, preservation, economic revitalization, and resiliency planning initiatives through tactical alignment of land use, infrastructure and preservation plans, resources, programs, policies and investment decisions, and conveys a clear investment message regarding local and regional land use priorities to both public and private sectors.
The Supporting Priority Investment in Somerset County: Phase I Study, published in April 2015, developed data resources and measures of need and performance to support the analysis and formulation of development and redevelopment scenarios for all of the Priority Growth Investment Areas (PGIAs) identified in the CIF. The Phase I data resources were subsequently utilized to support and inform the planning analysis in both the Phase II and III studies.
The Supporting Priority Investment in Somerset County: Phase II Final Report was published in July 2015. Phase II was a collaborative process to understand and address local needs, goals, and visions for growth that supports redevelopment opportunities and encourages investment and job creation.
The Supporting Priority Investment in Somerset County: Phase III Study was finalized in June 2017, and developed recommendations and framework plans for seventeen Priority Growth Investment Areas (PGIAs) and Local Priority Areas. The Regional Center, the largest of the County’s 24 PGIAs, was included in the Phase III Study.
Walk Bike Hike: Connecting Vibrant Communities Plan
The Walk Bike Hike: Connecting Vibrant Communities Plan was finalized in July 2019, and is a Framework Strategy designed to improve multimodal mobility and safety for Somerset County travelers of all ages and abilities. The findings and candidate improvements of the Framework Strategy will guide the development of convenient, equitable, and interconnected travel routes, facilities, and networks, over time, and in a collaborative manner. It includes more than 220 candidate walk, bike, and hike improvements, totaling almost 275 miles of new facilities across Somerset County.
Regional Center Strategic Master Plan
Completed in 2006, the Somerset County Regional Center Strategic Master Plan was the guiding document for the Regional Center to determine the most important programs and projects for achieving the Regional Center vision, to advance the planning and implementation objectives of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan for designated regional centers, and to guide development, redevelopment and investment within the Regional Center. The plan combines a traditional master plan document and a strategic plan into one unified planning document. The plan directly reflects stakeholder input from residents, business leaders, and elected officials obtained during the June 2005 Regional Center Partnership Planning Retreat. The plan is oriented around seven focus areas consisting of downtowns and Main Streets; redevelopment areas, economic development and community design; train station areas; neighborhoods and housing; circulation; recreation, open space and natural systems; and shared services, community facilities and historic and cultural resources.
In September 2015, the Regional Center Partnership hosted a Regional Center Visioning Initiative to consider in terms of the Regional Center Strategic Master Plan some of the important accomplishments achieved in the Regional Center since the 2005 Visioning Retreat and, in light of all that has changed since 2005, to create a vision for the Regional Center for the next five years and determine how we should prioritize our resources. The results of the 2015 Visioning Initiative combined with the subsequent input from all three Regional Center communities led to the Somerset County Regional Center Strategic Plan. The 2006 Regional Center Strategic Master Plan remains an important Regional Center planning document serving as a reference for past Regional Center planning and visioning effort and its contribution to helping achieve the goals and vision for the Regional Center over the past decade.