BUILD Health Challenge

The BUILD Health Challenge is a national initiative funded by BUILD Health, supporting projects that are  Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local and Data-Driven. 

As a BUILD Health partner, Trenton Health Team collaborated with community partners to develop a “Safe & Healthy Corridor” along Brunswick Avenue and improve the surrounding North Ward neighborhood. 

Our efforts resulted in specific improvements, such as lighting and sidewalk repair, as well as new partnerships creating exciting opportunities for redevelopment and restoration of parks, housing, and retail in the neighborhood. Our work called attention to a neglected part of the city, putting into motion plans for future neighborhood revitalization and redevelopment, such as: 

  • An assessment of parks and vacant lots by THT partner Isles, Inc. enabled the City of Trenton to secure a matching grant of $500,000 under Mercer County’s “Mercer at Play” program to restore three parks and a recreation center.
  • Combining resources from BUILD and Trinity Health enabled a local developer to obtain a low-interest loan and state tax credits needed for housing redevelopment along Brunswick Avenue. The Patriot Village II project will transform a vacant lot across from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School into a four-story housing complex, including retail space.
  • A stronger partnership between THT and the Trenton Housing Authority helped the city win a $1.3 million federal Choice Neighborhood grant supporting creation  of a comprehensive plan for the North Trenton-Battle Monument Neighborhood. Many BUILD project partners will contribute to plans, which is almost identical to our BUILD corridor.

From August 2017 through August 2019, THT “cleaned and greened” vacant lots in collaboration with partners at Isles, Inc. We transformed neglected streets through a large scale tactical urbanism project. We provided nutrition and healthy living classes through our partners at Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the City’s Department of Health and Human Services. We expanded access to healthy food by working with Snipes Farm and Education Center, Henry J. Austin Health Center, St. Francis Medical Center, and Capital Health. THT also held community meetings to get input, and engaged community leaders in planning.

Improvements over the grant period included:

  • Cleaning and greening of vacant or abandoned lots
  • Lighting and sidewalk improvements
  • Upgrading parks and green spaces
  • Community gardens and farmer’s markets
  • Community events along the corridor
  • Opening Capital Health Primary Care-Brunswick Avenue

Tactical Urbanism Project

Street Plans, a nationally recognized urban planning and design firm, guided residents and other community stakeholders through a hands-on design workshop that led to the design for two complete streets demonstration projects. Some of the threats and dangers reported by residents included lack of signboards, lack of crosswalks, lack of street lighting, and on-street debris/garbage. Leon Rainbow, a Trenton graffiti artist, took general themes he heard during the workshop and turned them into art. 

With streets closed to traffic, about 100 volunteers and THT staff, in conjunction with folks from Street Plans, Rutgers Voorhees Transportation Center, and Leon Rainbow, painted beautiful street designs to slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety. The project changed individual attitudes at Public Works and we were able to increase community buy-in for these types of demonstration projects.

Battle Monument Farmers Market

The weekly outdoor market ran during summer in 2018 and 2019. In addition to fresh produce sold by Snipes Farm and Education Center, we offered free health screenings and health education through Henry J. Austin Health Center, Capital Health, and St. Francis Medical Center each week. Rutgers Cooperative Extension Department of Family & Community Health Sciences (FCHS)  provided “Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables” nutrition education lessons, food demonstrations, and food tastings every other week through their SNAP-Ed Program using produce from Snipes.

A food voucher program provided patients with diabetes at both Henry J. Austin Health Center and Capital Health with a $5 voucher for fresh produce, thanks to the Capitol Health Auxiliary and Foundation (2018) and THT’s  Capital City Diabetes Initiative funded by the Merck Foundation (2019). The market averaged about 30 customers per day.

Healthy Nutrition

A six-week “Cancer, Thriving and Surviving” series at North 25 Senior Housing was offered by Rutgers Cooperative Extension FCHS. A nine-week “Eating Smart, Being Active” (ESBA) cooking series, provided by FCHS SNAP-Ed nutrition educators, engaged youth at the Isles Youth Institute with interactive nutrition classes and hands-on cooking experiences. Participants reported making class recipes at home, incorporating more vegetables into their meals, and reading nutrition labels more carefully. Isles, Inc.’s Urban Agriculture team members  participated in a school garden and grounds beautification project at MLK Elementary for Earth Day.

Neighborhood Safety

Battle Monument Park has seen improvement based on additional funding from NJ Manufacturers Insurance. Lighting deficiencies identified through our survey are being addressed and concrete and masonry repairs are being done as well. A vacant lot survey by Isles, Inc. is guiding neighborhood improvement plans.


Comparing Trenton or Mercer County data with New Jersey rates: