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Community Identity: Stemming the Tide of Homogenization through Custom Design

EVESHAM, N.J. -- Drive down almost any suburban highway, and you will be greeted by a sea of sameness. McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, Wells Fargo, Target, etc. You could be anywhere. But soon, when you drive into or fly over Evesham Township, however, you will be greeted by an embodiment of the township seal. Catalyst Experiential and Evesham Township worked together on the design, which fulfills a township goal to have a unique Landmark letting you know that you are entering Evesham.

Pete Henry, lead designer for Catalyst, noted, "We started playing with the concept of the town seal, and really fell in love with the idea of creating a physical manifestation of the seal. We started to envision the township seal as something that would identify the township even if you were flying over or looking at the satellite view in Google Earth."

This concept led to a triangular Landmark that sits atop a 4,200-square-foot reflecting pool, surrounded by an 88-foot-wide circle with the township name and location. The Landmark features visual communications technology on two sides, and a smaller version of the community seal on the third. A transparent dome sits atop the structure, and will feature subtle lighting that changes based upon the barometric pressure. Vibrant landscaping with over 17,000 plants, including evergreen trees, shrubbery, and flowers, will enhance the experience.

The new Landmark will replace an obsolete gas and service station that has been a well-known community eyesore. Leah Furey-Brueder, Township Planner for Evesham, related, "As we've looked at redevelopment over the past several years, that service station has crossed our mind on several occasions. Sitting at the entrance to Evesham Township, it's the first thing people see when they enter. The reason we never did a redevelopment or rehabilitation designation for the site is that, when you look at that site, we couldn't figure out what we could do with it."

"This project was ideal for Catalyst," explained Amanda Toton, VP of Development, Catalyst Experiential. "Our installations are unique in that we can design something for almost any space, enabling us to revitalize land by replacing an existing use with something more desirable to the community."

The property is less than an acre, which is too small for most modern uses. And, it has a triangular shape and a lot of frontage on the roadway. Leah notes that, "Essentially, it was suited to an old-style gas station and little else." So, when Catalyst Experiential approached to discuss transforming the parcel with a community Landmark, complete with abundant landscaping and water feature, Leah was willing to listen.

Rain runoff will supply the reflection pool, as well as be the primary source of irrigation for the landscaping. The township will have access to the two digital displays to share community information as well as emergency alerts. The new plan also eliminates two curb cuts, increasing safety by reducing traffic that might otherwise be entering the busy roadway.

The new Landmark will fulfill many elements that Evesham had specifically outlined in its 2020 Vision Plan, including conserving open space, preserving natural resources, and promoting public health and safety.

Leah commented on the productive partnership with Catalyst, "Their initial plan met many elements of our vision plan. And, when we asked whether they could provide some additional benefits, they did." For instance, the township recommended sidewalks, and Catalyst agreed to install as part of the plan. And, the township also inquired about solar panels to help power the displays, and Catalyst is developing plans for how to incorporate.

The Landmark was approved on at a zoning board meeting on January 27 that was attended by several community members who expressed enthusiasm for the project. Leighanne Ratcliffe, of Greenhill Court, summed up the view of many in attendance, "I'm proud to live here, and having something that beautiful, and with the landscaping-it's a win for the community."

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Caption: The Evesham Landmark is a larger than life town seal.

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Living Landmark Approved for Route 202 in Flemington, NJ

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- The Flemington, NJ Land Use Board has approved a Gateway Monument with a living wall to be constructed at the Flemington Circle on Route 202. This decision was rendered at the Board's bi-monthly meeting on October 22. The Monument will be constructed in a public private partnership with Catalyst Experiential.

The Flemington Living Landmark will include colorful landscaping, a living wall, a sign welcoming drivers to "The Historic Borough of Flemington," and an array of "solar trees" to provide renewable energy. The project will integrate a communications platform consisting of three digital displays that the municipality can use to broadcast emergency information and to help promote local activities and events.

"When I look at the rendering, I picture it coming alive -- and have an image of how beautiful this will be," said Tim Bebout, owner and chef at the Main Street Manor B&B in Flemington. "It's going to be lovely to have drivers pass trees and landscaping and to know that just down the street is one of the most beautiful towns in New Jersey and they should stop."

Flemington has been focused on the revitalization of underutilized properties in the Borough, and the rehabilitation of its historic Main Street. Like many communities, it seeks to improve life for residents and stand out from the sea of sameness that permeates our suburbs. Drivers often don't realize they are leaving one municipality and entering the next. Catalyst Experiential will take a derelict auto shop and transform it into a unique meaningful green space with a landmark to welcome visitors to the Borough.

"In the 90s I lived in Hunterdon County and used to pass through Flemington regularly," commented Eric Ascalon, Vice President of Development, Catalyst Experiential. "I remember the quaint, inviting Main Street-but the 202 commercial corridor bypassing the heart of town was nondescript, and had a dilapidated old service station in its midst. I'm very proud that Catalyst will be transforming this eyesore into an appropriate green gateway to welcome travelers to this wonderful community."

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Catalyst Experiential is redefining the physical form of communication by integrating visual communication technology with municipal landmarks, public safety facilities, and community gathering places. Imagine dog parks, pedestrian bridges, art centers, or fire stations that serve the public while enabling the local government, schools, charities, and businesses to speak directly to the community they serve.

Catalyst works closely with communities to understand their needs so that they can develop solutions at no cost to taxpayers. The solutions frequently transform the under-utilized property into a community asset that combines art, architecture, and advertising in a unique way.

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*Image caption: The Flemington, NJ Land Use Board has approved a Gateway Monument with a living wall to be constructed at the Flemington Circle on Route 202.

Donna Katz
Grimm and Grove Communications

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