On July 29th through August 1st this summer, Newark, New Jersey’s Lincoln Park will host its 5th Annual Music Festival. And despite the impressive lineup (featuring the likes of Carrie Jackson, Adegoke Steve Colson, Lance Williams and True Worship, Keith Bailey & A.N.T, Danny Krivit, Kenny Bobien, Loleatta Holloway, and DJs Immortal Technique and 9th Wonder), the Festival marks more than just a collection of outdoor musical acts. It is the crown jewel of the Lincoln Park/Coast Cultural District (LPCCD) project, now in its eleventh year.
The LPCCD, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, started out as an advocacy organization and quickly became a community development corporation. It was formed to address the blight, crime and overall deterioration of the Lincoln Park area, once a vibrant arts-based community known for its handsome brownstones and jazz clubs. Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, the community experienced job loss, population loss, increased gang activity, and thriving open drug markets. The closure of its subway stop, formerly the last stop on the subway line out of New York City, further isolated the community. The LPCCD, headed by former U.S. Army Specialist and U. Penn law graduate Baye Adofo-Wilson, and with the support of the Regional Planning Association, underwent an extensive series of community meetings to begin searching for solutions.
The meetings produced a wealth of citizen suggestions, the most frequent of which was chosen to frame the revitalization project: an arts-based cultural district, with an eye toward sustainable development, ambitiously conceived as an “urban eco village.” With community stakeholders from arts organizations like Newark Symphony Hall, Newark Boys Chorus, City Without Walls and New Jersey Historical Society, the LPCCD began its massive undertaking.
It started by first addressing the built environment. Because the Lincoln Park area suffered so much blight, the LPCCD was working with mostly vacant and abandoned buildings and land, reducing the need to effect government takings. Successful plans have included renovating a symphony hall, connecting certain streets to encourage pedestrian traffic, performing green renovations on existing buildings and building new LEED ND-certified housing to accommodate mixed-incomes, changing zoning codes to allow for artist/live work spaces, restaurants, art galleries, night entertainment venues, craft stores and street vendors.
Once those plans were in place, the LPCCD began integrating social and community initiatives. The Lincoln Park neighborhood now boasts an urban farm, several art galleries, small-business creation and marketing resources for residents, green-jobs training (and subsequent hiring for Lincoln Park projects), nutrition and exercise resources, and legal advocacy and creative agencies. Initiatives also include myriad youth resources like a skate park, Scouts, and “Sharp Shootin’,” a non-profit whose mission is to accomplish “street peace” among street and youth groups, and provide youth alternatives to violence.
The Annual Music Festival brings together all the LPCCD’s successes to date. It features local and regional musicians of the jazz, gospel and electronic music persuasions. It holds numerous youth activities. It features vendors selling the works of local artists and serving local foods. Best of all, it’s free! What is also free is the ability to experience a truly unique community, formerly destined for ruin, now thriving under the principles of community vision and cooperation.
For more information about the Lincoln Park/Coast Cultural District, please visit http://www.lpccd.org/
Allison Altaras is a first year law student, music enthusiast, and hopeful attendee of the 5th Annual Lincoln Park Music Festival.