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A Vision for Creative Placemaking in Glassboro, New Jersey

Presented by Creative Glassboro

A Project of The Borough of Glassboro and Rowan University August 2016









The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions of Glassboro Partners Inc., the Borough of Glassboro, Rowan University, and the following members of Creative Glassboro:

Ronda Abbruzzese, Vice President of Marketing, Nexus Properties

Constantine Alexakos, Director of Student Activities, Rowan University

Amanda Almon, Assistant Professor of Art, Rowan University

Theresa Brown, Rowan University

Rose Ferguson, Glassboro Resident Tammy Fertel, South Jersey Federal

Professionals, Glassboro, NJ

Credit Union

Mary Salvante, Gallery and

Tom Fusco, Associate Professor of

Exhibitions Program Director, Rowan

Theatre, Rowan University

Thomas Gallia, Rowan University Board of Trustees, Glassboro Town

University Art Galleries

Marianne Schottenfeld, Glassboro Resident

student, Glassboro Intern

Square Planning Committee

Heather Simmons, Gloucester

Al Bartolomeo, Glassboro Business

Dana Guidera, Glassboro Resident Andrew Halter, Glassboro Resident,

County Freeholder

Owner, Scoops Cafe

Amy Brown, Missio Dei Church, Educator

Tawana Bryant, Glassboro Resident/

Member, Glassboro Board of Education

Sonya Harris, Teacher, Bullock School, Bullock School Gardens,

Glassboro Green Team


Michael Ciesielka, Chief

Jason Kellum, Rowan University

Information Officer, Nexus Parking

student, Glassboro resident


Gene LaPierre, Artistic Director

Terry Dalton, Glassboro Resident Rick Dammers, Chair, Rowan

Gene LaPierre Ballroom Dance Studio, Glassboro

University Music Department

Diane Macris, Director, Gloucester

Theresa DiVietro, Chief Creative

County Arts and Heritage Council

Mary Lee Donahue, President,

Nathan McCargo, Missio Dei Church Megan McHugh, Assistant Director,

Greater Glassboro Group

Office of Student Activities, Rowan

Deanne Farrell, Director of


Officer, Land Dimensions Engineering

Corporate and Foundation Relations,

Marie Natale, Independent Artist

Rowan University

Lavon Phillips, co-chair, Glassboro Director of Public Relations and Development


Dan Ruotolo, Student Working

Katrinka Somdahl-Sands, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Rowan University, Glassboro Resident

Daniele Spence, President, Glassboro Historical Society

Melanie Stewart, co-chair, Associate Dean, College of Performing Arts, Rowan University

John Styles, Manager, Barnes & Noble, Rowan University Bookstore

Les Vail, CEO and President Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce

Robert Whyte, Assistant Professor of Art, Rowan University

Kristen Whyte, Rowan University at Gloucester County Administrator, Rowan University Graduate Student

Rich Wiest, Librarian, Gloucester County Library System

Special Thanks



Special thanks to Glassboro Partners Inc. for sponsoring the Community Coaching effort that led to this plan; to Rowan University for providing space for meetings, and to Associate Dean Melanie Stewart for her leadership and coordination of the team. This report was prepared by Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/ PP, Executive Director of The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, and edited by Mary Lee Donahue for Creative Glassboro. All ideas presented in this vision come from members of Creative Glassboro.


Introduction Life in and around the small South Jersey town of Glassboro, New Jersey, is changing. With the phenomenal growth of Rowan University and the recent construction of many residential developments, what was once a quiet, semi-rural, semi-suburban and somewhat post-industrial community has mushroomed with population density and commercial opportunities. In the next few years, there will be hundreds of new residents and thousands of new students, major expansions of buildings and grounds at the university, and several new stores and restaurants downtown. High Street and Rowan Boulevard are set to become new shopping hubs. A number of towns have building booms, but Glassboro has never experienced anything like this. Change can be uncomfortable. In urban redevelopment, change is not merely physical but environmental and social. The sense of place – that is, of what Glassboro is and what it means to residents – may also change. Although change in Glassboro brings new opportunities to make the borough a better place for more people, it does so at the risk of losing what many people value in the borough. Creative Glassboro’s vision can enhance both quality of life and economic opportunity for residents while protecting the distinct qualities of the borough. It focuses on the ways that art and culture can address key social, economic, and environmental issues in the community. To achieve this vision, Creative Glassboro intends to:

• Acknowledge and include diverse interests in Glassboro; • Integrate creativity, arts and culture into the fabric of the town; • Protect and promote Glassboro’s heritage; • Create better experiences for residents and visitors; • Improve the quality of the physical environment; • Be realistic about what can get done.







This vision statement was developed by Creative Glassboro, a diverse team of more than thirty Glassboro residents and Gloucester County stakeholders. They include representatives from borough government and Rowan University as well as residents, merchants, professionals, and property owners from throughout the community. To create the vision as well as strategies for implementation, team members engaged dozens of additional persons — students, longtime residents, university staff, and representatives of community organizations. Creative Glassboro team members worked for six months between January and June 2016, meeting every three to four weeks for a few hours at a time. Coached by the Executive Director of the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking Leo Vazquez, they first explored issues affecting quality of life in the borough, then engaged their neighbors and colleagues in relevant conversations, and ultimately developed goals and strategies to bring arts and culture to downtown Glassboro. To bring the vision to fruition, team members have pledged to organize events when they can, to find partners or sponsors for projects they can’t complete themselves, to engage residents, to support the people who implement the ideas, and to be strong advocates for their vision.


A Vision for Downtown Glassboro Creative Glassboro sees the Borough of Glassboro as a welcoming, vibrant, and joyful arts and culture destination for the South Jersey region and beyond. Our mission, therefore, is to integrate art and culture into the fabric of downtown Glassboro not only for arts’ sake but also as an economic development tool that will enhance the quality of life, provide creative experiences, and promote new opportunities for the benefit of all our citizens. By promoting art and culture, Glassboro will become an increasingly inviting place where artists, business owners, professionals, educators, and private citizens of all ages want to live, work and thrive. Centered on the High Street business district from the arts district on the east to the university art gallery on the west, six blocks of redeveloping urban space provide both a canvas and a platform for artistic expression and endeavor in the heart of the old downtown. Our guiding principles for realizing this vision are to be inclusive and to embrace the diversity within our community; to encourage a balance of commercial development with green conservation; to promote and preserve our historically rich cultural heritage; and to foster a diverse mix of private, commercial, and nonprofit arts or cultural initiatives and programs.







Enabling this vision will achieve the following goals:

• To activate and enliven downtown Glassboro with art; • To connect Rowan University activities and events with the community; • To collaborate to bring more resources into Glassboro; • To encourage people to explore the history of the borough as well as to facilitate those explorations; • To use art and artistic activities as vehicles to:

o Further social and economic goals, o Solve community problems, o Make discoveries about Glassboro, o Build connections among individuals and organizations, and o Raise awareness of critical issues in Glassboro


Strategies and Projects

Creative Glassboro proposes a wide-ranging set of strategies to achieve the vision. These strategies are organized by time frame:

• Phase 0 projects are ‘Do it Now,’ high-priority, short term projects.

They have already begun or will be started soon. • Phase 1 projects are those that the team plans to begin or to be completed in three to six months. • Phase 2 projects are expected to begin in six months and to be completed in 18 months. • Phase 3 projects are lower priority or longer to achieve (i.e., more than 18 months to complete) with more complex strategy.




Strategies and Projects



Phase 0 (Do it Now): ‘Yarn It’ yarnbombing.

Yarnbombing is an eye-catching way to beautify or enliven a public area. Knitters and crocheters create coverings for street furniture, poles, and other objects on sidewalks or plazas, often using colorful yarn. For the Yarn It project, Creative Glassboro members will engage local fiber artists and provide ways for others to learn how to create with fibers. The project is set for installation in early November.

Slam poetry night.

This opportunity for amateur and professional poets to read and share their work will bring together poets, writers, and others who love spoken-word artistry. This and similar evening activities will also encourage more people to walk along High Street and visit the shops or restaurants in the evening. Creative Glassboro hopes to use the slam poetry night and other evening events described below to launch monthly arts activities in Glassboro. Poetry Nite is set for fall at a date TBA.

Application for an “Our Town” project grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In order to obtain the funds needed to erect a permanent art installation on the new town square, Creative Glassboro is serving as a partner with lead applicants The Rowan University Foundation/ Rowan Art Gallery and the Borough of Glassboro. Creative Glassboro developed the concept for the installation, a large outdoor mural honoring the working people who built Glassboro during the town’s five-century history (See Fig. 2). The application is due September 29.


Strategies and Projects

Phase 1 (To begin or to be completed in the next three to six months): •• An art exhibition and treasure hunt to highlight the Glassboro story through six

archetypes (see Telling the Glassboro Story, Fig 2, next page). This would include an art contest organized with public and private schools in Glassboro producing sidewalk art, especially the kind that appears in the rain, and a treasure hunt in downtown Glassboro. The event would coincide with a beer festival.




Strategies and Projects



Fig. 2 Telling the Story of Glassboro through six representative figures:

After reviewing the proposed vision for this plan, some longtime residents offered an idea for public art that would help tell the story of Glassboro from its beginnings to today. The artwork would illustrate six characters representing six stages in the development of the community.

• A Native American (Lenni Lenape) scout who blazed trails through the prehistoric wilderness of southern New Jersey.

• A gaffer (glassblower) who brought industry and art to Glassboro in 1755. • Nat, the first recorded African-American to live in Gloucester County, who managed the horses on the 18th C. stagecoach route through town. • The Widow Heston, the matriarch of a family that developed Glassboro industry in the 19th century. Widowed in her youth, she chose to stay in Glassboro and run the tavern that fed the glassworkers in her late husband’s factory. • A late 19th C. storekeeper, whose business acumen developed commerce in the town. • An early 20th C. college student — a young woman preparing for a career at the New Jersey Normal School at Glassboro.

These characters represent different elements of Glassboro that residents value: • The scout represents Glassboro’s connection to nature. • The student reflects Glassboro’s connection to education and Rowan University. • A gaffer (glassmaker) connects to the town’s industrial history, as well as to contemporary art and craft.

• Nat represents the fact that a significant African-American community has been living and working in Glassboro for many generations since the colonial era.

• The persevering Widow Heston is a special founder, because her children and

grandchildren led Glassboro’s development as an international industrial center for glass manufacturing in the 19th century. • The storekeeper represents the importance of merchants and business in Glassboro.


Strategies and Projects

Phase 1 •• The creation of an iconic public artwork featuring a gaffer¹ and a town-wide

glassblowing exhibition to celebrate Glassboro’s industrial history. This event is also a nod to the growing “maker” movement. A new “maker space” has recently opened in the Glassboro Public Library and team members were interested in having more of these spaces in town. •• A light festival with public performances in the downtown to include live music in restaurants and other businesses. Such evening events can bring more people to the downtown area at night. •• A bicycle-share program and a bicycle-painting event. The Glassboro police have a number of bicycles that have been abandoned, discarded, or seized. Residents would be invited to paint and recycle the bicycles for productive use. Biking is a healthy and environmentally friendly way for residents and visitors to move around Glassboro. •• An annual arts festival to promote area artists and encourage more people to think about Glassboro as a center for art and creativity. •• A plan to develop a ‘hub’ that would build and sustain partnerships and collaboration among a wide variety of Glassboro residents. Partnerships across communities and sectors can do more to make things happen and to sustain results than any one person can. •• A review of borough regulations to identify rules that could inhibit the growth of the arts in Glassboro. These rules could include permitting processes.

1 In glassblowing, the gaffer is the craftsperson who shapes the glass object by blowing into a tube with molten glass on the end.




Strategies and Projects



Phase 2 projects (To be completed in 18 months): ••

•• ••

Greenroofs and decorative plantings downtown to promote environmental sustainability and enhance the attractiveness of the area. A diorama, mural or other form of public art that highlights Glassboro’s history. A multicultural music festival.


Strategies and Projects


Phase 3 projects (To be completed after 18 months): •• A downtown sculpture garden to create a quiet public place for

inspiration and reflection. •• A theater for performing arts to provide a public venue for theater, music concerts, and art films. •• A local battle of the bands to highlight the musical talent within the area. •• A new community center to provide more year-round space for Glassboro residents to come together. •• Monthly activities to sustain arts and cultural activities in Glassboro, because they will encourage more people to get into the habit of visiting or staying in the town.



How these ideas were selected



One of the greatest challenges in this type of planning is choosing among many great ideas. To generate the ideas, team members were asked to complete this statement: “Glassboro should…” Several team members also reached out into their communities to see how others would complete the statement. This simple exercise resulted in 77 responses. The responses reveal not only what residents wish for, but also what they value (the complete list of responses is in Appendix 1). Team members later developed a statement of vision and principles that brought together these ideas and values. Team members then shared the vision with various Glassboro residents as well as Rowan University students, staff, and faculty to get more insights. To select from among these ideas – and decide what should take priority — team members used the following criteria:

•• The idea has been reviewed by the team with widespread support. •• It provides a way for people to participate. •• It is clear that someone will take responsibility for making it happen. •• If the project requires funding, there is a plan to raise money for the project. •• The people involved are able to make the project happen. •• There is appropriate or sufficient space to do the project. •• There is a clear definition of success. •• The design of the project is connected to the goals of Creative Glassboro. •• The project is designed in ways to allow children or teens to get involved. •• If a project requires permission from borough agencies or property owners, the project managers have the authority to make it happen.

•• The project is highly visible – that is, it will happen in areas where many people can see it, or it contributes to the perception that Glassboro is friendly to the arts.

•• The project is designed so that there are opportunities for the public and team members

to learn from the experience. For example, organizers of an event might include a survey to see how the event shaped the way participants think about Glassboro. •• The project is not a ‘one-off’. Even if the project itself is meant to be conducted only once, it will be designed to lead to other creative activities that support art and culture.

Projects that score high on these criteria will get more support and higher priority from the team. These will also be the criteria the team will use to choose future projects.


About Glassboro


Just a 30- to 40-minute drive from center-city Philadelphia, Glassboro had been for many years a quiet, rural, and outer suburban community with a small state college at its center. Now it is developing into a major center for education and healthcare with a growing concentration of adult and retiree communities. In 2010, about 18,600 people lived in Glassboro. By 2015, the estimated population grew to 19,200. With Rowan’s 15,000-student population increasing every year, Glassboro becomes a moderate size community of more than 30,000 for nine months of the year. In its earliest days, during the end of the Colonial period, the town developed as a regional center for glassmaking with an international reputation for excellence. It continued as an industrial hub in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The borough was also a center for agri-business and food processing, industries which remain today. By 1920, however, most of the industrial glassmakers had gone out of business or moved to other forms of manufacturing. Glassboro received international fame in 1967, when Glassboro State College hosted a meeting between President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin to discuss relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Held at the Hollybush Mansion on campus, the ‘Summit at Hollybush’ was a key event in the thawing of the Cold War and the coming of detente. Rowan University, which began as a state teachers’ college in the early 20th century, is now the economic center of Glassboro. Soon it will be joined by the Inspira Health Network, which plans to build a medical center that is expected to create hundreds of new jobs and spinoff businesses. Like many industrial and suburban communities in the Mid-Atlantic, Glassboro attracted African-American and immigrant residents – especially Italians. Today, Glassboro is relatively diverse. According to the 2013 American Community Survey, about 73% of its residents are White, 17% are African-American, and about 6% are Latino. About 23% of residents are of Irish descent, 22% Italian, and 19% German2.

2 Based on how residents self-reported their first or second ancestry.



About Glassboro



Today, Glassboro is facing perhaps its biggest challenge since the turn of the 20th century. In a $350 million redevelopment that began in 2008, Rowan University and the Borough are in the midst of recreating downtown Glassboro into a compact, dense 18-hour community that includes new businesses, restaurants, a hotel, a Barnes & Noble bookstore, performing arts spaces, a new downtown park, new student housing and residential apartments. There are also plans to create a light rail line that connects with existing commuter rail in Camden, about 20 miles away, and ends in Glassboro near the new downtown development. Eventually the rail line is to extend to the southern shore. Meanwhile, Rowan University is expanding with several new academic buildings, an art gallery on High Street, residence halls slated to open within the year, and a $10 million grant from the state of New Jersey to build a health science center.


Issues in the community Creative Glassboro members engaged Glassboro residents and businesses as well as Rowan faculty, staff and students in conversations about the town three times between December 2015 and May 2016. Many issues were raised. They ranged from concerns about how Glassboro would change, to how municipal services might improve, to a desire to have more options for healthy food and outdoor exercise in the downtown. But few issues were shared by a wide variety of stakeholders, from young college students to long-time residents of Glassboro:




Issues in the community



•• ‘Unifying’ Glassboro – that is, bringing more people together and making the heart

of the community more inclusive. This issue comes from a variety of concerns and observations. Some team members said that Rowan University is seen by too many residents as standing apart from the town, and that its activities are seen as ‘exclusive’ to their own community. There were also concerns about so many different communities – ethnic, age, cultural – standing apart from one another and not connecting. (In other communities, the ‘silo’ effect that comes with increased diversity tends to lead to miscommunication, mistrust, and tension.) There was also some concern about whether the neighborhoods around the redevelopment area – such as East High Street – would also get a high level of attention from the Borough.

•• Protecting Glassboro’s histories. When businesspeople and households move

into an established area, it is usually because they value the local culture, environment, and other elements that make up the ‘soul’ of a place. But the new developments in downtown and elsewhere in Glassboro are creating new types of places. There is a concern that if the new businesspeople and residents are not connected with what makes Glassboro Glassboro, the history and character of the town might become little more than a footnote.

•• Protecting Glassboro’s open spaces and connections to its rural character. Single-

family suburban housing developments now outnumber farms in Glassboro, but there is a strong connection among some residents to Glassboro’s rural roots.

•• Increasing the visible presence of creative people and the arts in Glassboro. There

is a sign on a building on High Street announcing the ‘Glassboro Arts District.’ There is a new art gallery at the corner of High and Ellis Street. But Glassboro has few other visible signs of the arts – galleries, public art, notices of concerts or theater events. The downtown redevelopment plan has created new spaces for performing arts – and will add more. But the spaces alone only provide the opportunity; it is the people and their activities that turn a planned arts center into one that is real. Also, it’s difficult for arts and cultural activities to be vehicles for addressing community issues if there are not a lot of artistic or culturallyoriented persons working together in the community.


About Creative Glassboro Creative Glassboro is an independent, informal, working group of volunteers who live or work in or around Glassboro, who care about its future, and who are committed to making this vision a reality. Although Creative Glassboro has no authority, it is designed to have a lot of influence. Its 30+ members represent a wide range of communities and interests in the borough. The team grew from the Community Coaching process that led to this vision, and it is already organized to achieve results:

•• The co-chairs and liaisons to the Borough government and the

university, respectively, are Lavon Phillips and Melanie Stewart. •• Al Bartolomeo will be the liaison to local businesses. •• Mary Salvante and Rich Wiest will serve as liaisons to visual artists •• Kristen and Rob Whyte are handling knowledge management for the team with a team website and Facebook page for Creative Glassboro. •• Jason Kellum will be the liaison to local schools. •• Kristen Whyte will handle marketing and strategic communications for the team.




About Creative Glassboro



Engaging the public in developing the plan In December 2015, the Rowan University Art Gallery hosted a public gathering to introduce Creative Placemaking and Community Coaching to the public. More than 50 people attended and shared their thoughts on how to enhance quality of life in Glassboro through art and culture. Several people who attended the meeting joined Creative Glassboro. A key feature of the event was a chalk-board outline of Glassboro on which guests and visitors to the gallery could share their thoughts about the phrase ‘Glassboro is…’ and ‘Glassboro can be.’ (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Glassboro residents and Rowan students, faculty and staff shared their thoughts about and for the community at the Rowan University Art Gallery in late 2015 and early 2016 (Image: Leonardo Vazquez).


About Creative Glassboro Between January and June, Creative Glassboro team members gathered every month to develop their vision and create an implementation plan. Subcommittees and team leaders met more frequently. Coached by The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, the team discussed key social, economic and cultural issues affecting Glassboro along with related opportunities and challenges. They offered a wide variety of ideas for arts and cultural activities to address these issues. But team members did more than plan for the future; several were already involved in arts or cultural activities and encouraged their teammates to participate. As residents or stakeholders in Glassboro, Creative Glassboro team members were committed to getting input from other residents. To this end, several team members reached out to year-round residents, Rowan University students and others to get ideas for strategies and to test the draft vision. Creative Glassboro members also held conversations with longtime residents, Rowan University students and faculty, representatives of nonprofits and religious organizations, senior citizens, school officials, and merchants to develop the draft. To get feedback on the draft vision, team members then held focus group meetings with residents and other stakeholders. They read the draft vision statement and asked residents:

•• What does this vision mean to you? •• What part of this vision resonates with you? •• What, if anything, would make it better? •• How would you like to contribute?







In sum, more than 80 people, in addition to the Creative Glassboro team members, were involved in creating this vision which is to integrate art and culture into the fabric of downtown Glassboro not only for arts’ sake but also as an economic development tool to enhance the quality of life, provide creative experiences, and promote new opportunities for the benefit of all our citizens. Working together, and guided by principles that include embracing diversity, encouraging a balance of commercial development with green conservation and preserving our rich cultural heritage they look forward to continued opportunities to make the vision a reality.




GLASSBORO @CreativeGlassboro #creativeglassboro

Creative direction and design: Robert T. Whyte Illustration and additional photography: Mario Oliveto





Creative Glassboro Vision Statement  
Creative Glassboro Vision Statement  

One year later and getting stronger.