Annual Downtown NJ Conference Focused on Adapting to Change
Courtenay D. Mercer
Executive Director, Downtown New Jersey
November 5, 2018
Statewide non-profit organization hosted industry leaders in real estate and downtown management
Jersey City, NJ – Downtown New Jersey (DNJ) held its annual conference on Friday, November 2, 2018 at the New Jersey City University School of Business on the Jersey City waterfront. The premiere downtown economic development event of the year, the DNJ Annual Conference hosted industry experts who provide insights into downtown management best practices, as well as development, business and retail market trends. DNJ also celebrated achievements in downtown economic development at its Downtown Excellence Awards presentation during lunch.
The conference included welcoming remarks from DNJ President and well-known redevelopment attorney Robert Goldsmith, Esq. who lamented the potential impact of proposed redevelopment legislation on the revitalization of downtowns. Goldsmith also praised the conference host city, as a place “where millennials and other forces have stimulated a remarkable urban renaissance, reflective of the renaissance ongoing in many New Jersey downtowns.”
Annisia Cialone, the recently appointed Director of the Department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce (HEDC) for The City of Jersey City provided keynote remarks including a visual timeline of Jersey City’s development since the mid-Twentieth Century. Cialone described the evolution of the City from a landscape dominated by railroads and industry to its modern skyline of high-rise apartments, condos and office buildings.
The first panel discussion included a presentation of two studies about downtown business improvement districts (BIDs) by Dr. David Listokin of the Bloustein School of Planning and Policy at Rutgers University and Jef Buehler of the NJ Department of Community Affairs. After the presentations, downtown managers on the panel and in the audience engaged in a dialogue about the evolving nature of BIDs. According to one panelist, Stuart Koperweis of Economic Development Strategists, the discussion “confirmed the need not only for improvement districts, but their increasing and evolving role in partnering with the municipalities to create economic growth and revitalization.” He continued, “there is a need for an ongoing dialogue between managers of the districts and government officials.”
(Links to Panel 1 Presentations: Improvement District Census – Buehler; Bloustein Study – Listokin)
The second panel was a discussion among real estate industry leaders about adapting to change in light of shifts in demographics and market demand. Moderator by Kevin Riordan, Director at the Rutgers Center for Real Estate, seamlessly steered an engaging conversation between Christopher J. Otteau of Otteau Group, Debra Tantleff of TANTUM Real Estate, Tyler Bennett of Bennett Realty & Development, and
Jeremy Neuer of CBRE. Topics ranged from the evolution in housing demand from the suburban home with a yard to condos requiring little maintenance in a walkable downtown; to trends toward “experiential” retail; to the impact of driverless cars. “As New Jersey downtowns grapple with a myriad of issues from housing affordability to thriving retail businesses to creating and/or retaining employment drivers,” said Tantleff, “it is critical to appreciate the larger growing social, economic and demographic trends that are driving these end users so that towns can position themselves and plan for their futures accordingly.”
The conference also celebrated initiatives that have made a major or sustained impact on downtown economic development in New Jersey at an awards ceremony during lunch. “Every year, we are more and more impressed by the dedication and creativity of downtowns in their efforts to provide services, engage new audiences, and promote the economic development of their downtowns,” DNJ’s Executive Director, Courtenay Mercer said. “We are privileged and honored to recognize these efforts through the annual Downtown Excellence Awards.” This year’s recipients included the Wildwood BID, Bloomfield College, Newark Museum, Springfield BID & the Gruskin Group, and the Williamstown Economic Development Committee.
After a walking tour of downtown Jersey City led by the City’s Planning Director Tanya Marione and HDSID Director Rachel Seig, conference attendees enjoyed a reception at one of the city’s premiere music venues – White Eagle Hall. The reception was open not only to DNJ, but included local leaders, artists, and community organizers, providing an opportunity for further networking.
With a crowd of over 100 developers, lawyers, downtown professionals, public officials, and community organizers participating throughout the day; Goldsmith celebrated the conference as “an engaging, well-attended event providing insights into issues and tools impacting downtown revitalization.”
Photos of the 2018 Conference and Downtown Excellence Awards
Thank you to our sponsors!