SOVCA is now South Orange Downtown with Melissa Hodge at the helm

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — On Aug. 2, the South Orange Village Center Alliance announced its new name — South Orange Downtown — and a major rebrand for the nonprofit organization dedicated to making the downtown business district a vibrant place to live, work and enjoy. The organization also announced that Melissa Hodge, who has been leading the organization since February, has been promoted to executive director, and Lisa Szulewski has joined the team as events and marketing coordinator. 

“For years we have been referring to our business district as a downtown, as it better describes our urban, transit-oriented center,” South Orange Downtown board Chairperson Deborah Engel said. “With our organization entering a new chapter under Melissa’s leadership and with South Orange Village completing their own rebrand recently, we felt this was the right time to update and refresh our downtown business district’s look and name as well.”

The South Orange Downtown rebrand includes a new logo and website at, and will focus on highlighting the downtown district as a destination to local South Orange and Maplewood residents, as well as neighboring towns. 

“This rebrand reflects the growth of the organization and showcases the vibrancy and complexity of the district,” Hodge said. “South Orange Downtown connects people, fuses the new with the old and blends cultures. The new brand embodies the South Orange Downtown experience and we are excited to showcase this new direction.” 

The South Orange Downtown identity was developed by the independent brand experience design company DePaolis Design. Founder and creative director Diane DePaolis led several charrettes with board members and community stakeholders to align on the strategy. Dani Geraci, a local marketing and branding consultant, developed the new website, which highlights downtown businesses, upcoming events and local news updates.

Hodge was named acting executive director of the organization in February, after Julie Doran left the organization to become deputy village administrator, and has been with the organization for seven years. Szulewski joined the organization in June in the newly created position of events and marketing coordinator.