Community Planning and Development

Working with residents to help improve communities through engagement and neighborhood planning processes

We help residents organize so they can identify land use, economic, environmental, health, education, social service, and other challenges and opportunities in their communities. We practice asset-based planning, where we and the communities we serve develop practical plans that will attract the funding needed for implementation.

CP&D’s work is strategically focused in Trenton – this includes:

Trenton Historic Development Collaborative (THDC)

Isles is a key member of the THDC. Formed in 2006, the THDC is a coalition of more than 40 community stakeholders from the West and North Wards of Trenton who are committed to building capacity in and revitalizing their neighborhood. The initial planning phase was driven by the participation of more than 450 community members, and resulted in a neighborhood plan that includes services and programs needed to help residents achieve and sustain an improved quality of life. See the plan here.

CP&D is committed to the implementation of the Neighborhood Plan. Two plan priorities currently in the works is are the preservation and reuse of two historic cultural assets: the Carver Center: a YMCA for African American during segregation; and the Nixon School: Trenton’s first schoolhouse built for African American youth in the late 1800s.

Old Trenton Neighborhood (OTN)

CP&D’s work in OTN focuses on the physical improvements to vacant lots, acquisition / rehabilitation of vacant buildings, and the reactivation of underutilized properties. Located in downtown, this area is on the cusp of revitalization, with the presence of several large-scale redevelopment projects and an up and coming arts scene.

Creek to Canal (C2C) Creative District

Located between Assunpink Creek and the D&R Canal, the C2C Creative District is Trenton’s first arts district and the result of a six-month long planning process, which Isles led with the help of Interface Studio. We collected the input of over 750 people of all ages about the kinds of arts activities, redevelopment, and services that a local creative district should feature. Arts and culture are focused in this area because of how they can be catalysts for community and economic development. The City is prioritizing Old Trenton, in particular, for targeted arts-driven revitalization. See creektocanalcreative.org. 

East Trenton Collaborative (ETC)

The collaborative has existed since 2008 and is a partnership between New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC), the City of Trenton, Isles, and residents. ETC works to connect neighbors, build residents’ power, and improve homes, businesses, and places in the community. Isles is currently conducting an EPA Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Process in East Trenton to clean-up contaminated sites as the result of several vacant factories in the neighborhood. ETC partners, with the City of Trenton, are working to reuse these sites for public good, in the form of new recreational space. For more info, visit www.east-trenton.org/brownfields

BUILD Health

BUILD is a partnership with the Trenton Health Team (THT), City of Trenton, Isles, and other stakeholders to focus health-related services within the Brunswick Ave Corridor. Activities in the corridor include: cleaning and greening vacant lots, lighting and sidewalk improvements, upgrading parks and green spaces, and reactivating underutilized spaces with community events that bring more people together. Learn more at trentonhealthteam.org.

Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign (TNRC)

TNRC is a group of local and regional stakeholders that have been working for the revitalization of Trenton since 2011. Under a 2009 Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) grant from the EPA, survey results found that more residents were concerned about vacant and abandoned properties than about pollution, site contamination, or lead paint. TNRC began advocating for solutions to the problem, both at the policy and project level. It was convened by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey and chaired by Isles.

In the summer of 2014, under a grant received by the Rita Allen Foundation and the leadership from Isles, the Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign, worked with the City of Trenton, the Rutgers Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability (CUES), and community groups throughout the city to identify all the vacant properties in Trenton. Learn more at restoringtrenton.org

Isles, in partnership with the City of Trenton, Trenton Health Team, and other stakeholders are planning a second city-wide vacant property survey in 2019 to update property data and to track change in vacancy over time.

Click on the map for an interactive look at Isles’ Neighborhood Revitalization Initiatives.


Isles also develops real estate projects that meet exceptional standards of energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and sustainability, while preserving the historical integrity of neighborhoods by saving and renovating older homes. Read more about this work.


The Challenge

Our work relies on the input of community stakeholders to guide revitalization strategies and the desire to be part of the solution to improve communities. Crime concerns, failing infrastructure, and over 3,000 vacant buildings in Trenton are public health hazards that residents experience every day. These are leading factors that impact residents’ pride, where many are less likely to believe they have a voice to change their neighborhood and trust in city government to address concerns. This is reflected in voter turnout in Trenton (10% in 2018), which has historically trailed state and national turnout. Civic engagement is a challenge that we work to address and reinforce through a holistic effort to positively change perception and experience of place across Trenton.

2018 Snapshot


Convened the Creek to Canal Action Committee to guide implementation of the Creative District plan.


Worked to develop a new policy for neighborhood-based real estate development.


Acquired 12 vacant properties for rehabilitation.