The Bond Salon at 554 Bloomfield Avenue hosted a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Assessment for Bloomfield Center and the Bloomfield Center Alliance (“BCA”) on November 4, 2014, to look for input and to establish goals for the year ahead.
Twenty-five business owners, residents, officials and BCA Board members took part in the two-hour assessment, facilitated by Donna Ann Harris of Heritage Consulting in Philadelphia.
“This was something new,” said BCA Board president Michael Kahn. “We have held a number of Stakeholders’ Meetings in the past, and they have been well attended. But Stakeholder Meetings--while they allow for question and answer—are primarily reports to stakeholders
“This is an important year for Bloomfield Center. And the purpose of the assessment,” he continued, “was to gather information and create an informed set of goals for the organization and Bloomfield Center.”
“The greatest area in need of attention for us,” said Executive Director, James McCrone, “was communication, and what follows from it—be it using social media better, communicating better with merchants, or utilizing our web site to showcase all the great new things happening in Bloomfield Center.”
The findings were broken up into “internal” issues that the BCA can address and act on itself, and “external” issues, for which the BCA must work better with its partners. The following goals for 2015 are the result of the assessment and have been reviewed, voted on and committed to by the BCA Board. NOTE: Where BCA has already begun work in a given area, we have noted it in italics:
#1 Make regular short updates at City Council, Parking Authority and Bloomfield Township meetings
BCA has begun this process. We now have a Parking Authority liaison, who will attend Parking Authority meetings regularly to facilitate communication. Board members and the director will work to establish a schedule of Council/Township updates.
#2 Build subcommittees to use volunteer and Board member expertise
BCA is in the early stages of creating and identifying subcommittees in Design, Economic Revitalization, Marketing, and Events and will begin recruiting members.
#3 Offer matching grants to encourage quality rehabilitation, signage and storefront improvements.
BCA is working to identify funds for this task, and is at work formalizing a process by which to promote and administer the program. We hope to have something in place by the end of March or early April—just in time for the warmer weather!
#4 Create a marketing task force with staff, board members, merchants, and skilled volunteers
As with #2 above, the BCA has begun to look for interested individuals with unique skills.
#5 Create a new web site
A good web site is like a good shop window. It attracts and holds interest, and entices people to come in, whether in this case it’s more shoppers, or businesses looking to relocate in Bloomfield Center. We envision a site that will represent Bloomfield Center attractively, accurately, and give greater exposure to all the great things happening here. Work on the new web site has begun, and should be completed by the first week of April.
#6 Encourage the merchants to participate in Coop ads
Our outreach here will begin with a new retail event called Win the Window, which will run for a month beginning in mid-April. BCA will also be a large sponsor of Bloomfield Restaurant Week
#7 Gather email addresses to create an e-newsletter
BCA will look for opportunities to gather together a larger group of involved Bloomfield residents, and one of the features of the upcoming site will be the ability to sign up for our monthly eNewsletter.
#8 Maximize and integrate social media between BCA and downtown businesses.
This is on-going, and BCA will actively pursue bringing more and more Bloomfield Center businesses into an integrated social media platform(s).
#1 Make sure 6 Points project gets completed this year
The first step on the Six Points Streetscape Improvement Plan—the installation of the left-turn lane—has been achieved. The rest of the work will begin May 18, 2015, just as the Avalon Bay at Bloomfield Station/Glenwood Village project begins its finish work inside. The leasing office is slated to open the week of May 1, and Avalon Bay is hopeful that their first residents will begin to move in at the end of May.
#2 Fund and develop design guidelines in cooperation with the City in advance of for façade projects
This is both an “internal” and external issue for BCA, and it relates directly to #3 above, which is already underway.
#3 Work with City staff to determine if the downtown signage ordinance needs revision
Preliminary, informal discussions have taken place, and it will be the job of the Design committee to initiate and undertake this important work.
#4 Meet with local elected officials, build a rapport, and discuss code violations and issues
This is ongoing, and BCA has a good relationship with Township officials.
#5 Work with the City and Essex County on speeding on Bloomfield Avenue
Preliminary work has begun through the Essex County Complete Corridor project.
#6 Aggressively promote the positive changes happening in Bloomfield to local residents
BCA is committed to positively promoting Bloomfield Center.
#7 Understand the opportunities to promote downtown Bloomfield to residents in nearby communities
BCA continues to look for (and we invite input regarding) reaching out strategically to nearby residents—and not just those in Bloomfield.
The purpose of the increased communication described above is to help the businesses in Bloomfield Center grow by augmenting their marketing efforts and establishing a sense of place, where ideally, someone could spend a good part of the day, shopping, getting lunch/dinner, relaxing. In addition to these strategies, BCA is looking to expand its current list of successful downtown events, and to grow its existing events, like Harvest Fest and Cruise Night. We are also looking for new partnerships to help broaden our outreach for Bloomfield Center.