Trenton, NJ (2005-2006)

Client: Mercy County Planning Department, NJ


The Trenton Farmers Market is far and away one of Mercer County’s greatest social and economic assets. A 2005 Urban Land Institute (ULI) study advisory panel recognized this when it recommended the market be the centerpiece of redevelopment in the area it christened “Mercer Crossings.”

Given that the area around the market is dominated by disconnected parcels of land, congested roads, and overall land use patterns that do not reflect the “smart growth” vision for Mercer County and New Jersey, the ULI study determined that a strategic vision for future development was needed. This vision would lay out ways to enhance pedestrian and bicycle connections between uses and create complementary uses in the surrounding area – a place that could be both a local and regional destination.

The Mercer County Planning Department hired Project for Public Spaces to identify short-term and potential long-term opportunities that will improve the market experience for customers – making it more functional, attractive, and visible – and generate increased revenues for farmers and vendors, all while preserving its traditional character. As well, PPS was enlisted to identify short- and long-term opportunities for the revitalization and development of the district around the market, creating a neighborhood of complementary uses with the market at its core.

Over a 12 month period, PPS and its team conducted a thorough study of the market and its environs. The study, which involved a combination of meetings, interviews, site observations, surveys, and workshops, yielded a trove of findings: what people think of the market; what might improve it; what areas to focus on; with whom to partner; etc.

PPS’ approach, which stresses collaborative, inclusive planning, relies heavily on local stakeholders – in this case, market farmers, vendors and customers, representatives of local government and non-profit entities, neighborhood residents, and local property and business owners – to create a shared vision for the market and surrounding area. This was an especially important approach to take given the jurisdictional fragmentation which the area suffers from.

PPS developed a series of recommendations and strategies for next steps in the following areas: realizing the market’s great potential in attracting customers through programming and marketing; improving the market’s product mix; enhancing the customer amenities and the overall comfort and image of the market; renovating the market’s infrastructure; and improving access and linkages to the market to transit users, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as general traffic flow. The market has received a grant to begin implementation.