Downtown Management Forum Series

Downtown Management Forum Series

Downtown New Jersey is providing a series of virtual opportunities for downtown managers, economic development professionals, and public officials to exchange ideas about best practices related to downtown economic development. Check out the opportunities to interact with your peers below.

Live Web Forums

The Downtown Management Forum series is an exchange of ideas about best practices in NJ’s downtowns. The intended audience includes downtown management professionals, public officials, design professionals, and others involved with the management of downtowns.

Recognizing the time and effort it takes our staff to organize these forums, we are now asking non-members to pay a nominal fee to participate. There will be a link in both the registration form & confirmation email to make a donation in support of our programming.

DNJ members are welcome to attend this forum for free as a part of your member benefits. If you are not sure about your membership status, please visit

TOD in Downtown LogoDollars and Sense: Financing TOD

Friday, December 10 AT 11:00AM

How are TODs in New Jersey typically financed? How does adding affordable units affect a project’s bottom line? How will financing drive the future of TOD in the Garden State?

This event will bring together a panel of experts from public, private, and non-profit entities to discuss their experiences with available financing tools and how they are used in transit-oriented development. Drawing from practical examples, panelists will discuss existing financial constraints, available financial tools, advantages of funding sources for affordable units, innovative project models, partnerships with community groups and local leadership, and more. The discussion will help demystify the intricacies of development finance, and provide real-world expertise for municipalities, non-profits, and developers looking to learn more.


  • Omayra Echenique, Director of Development, RBH Group
  • Patrick Durkin, Director of Real Estate, Interfaith Neighbors (Asbury Park)
  • Paul Ceppi, Vice President, Tax Credits and Financing, New Jersey Economic Development Authority
  • Sheena Collum, Village President, South Orange


  • Brian Smith, Manager, Transit Oriented Development, Real Estate & Economic Development, NJ TRANSIT

Approved for 1.25 AICP CM continuing education credits.


Have a topic you want to hear more about? Email your suggestions to

Past Forums (2021)

Summaries, videos, PowerPoints and other resources

Don’t let limited resources hinder your revitalization aspirations. Small downtowns can harness people-power, as well as leverage technical and financial assistance to do great things. Experts with boots on the ground shared best practices for big change in your small downtown. 

Abbie Galie, Destination Medford
Mayor Paul Kanitra, Borough of Point Pleasant Beach
Tom Strowe, Scotch Plains Township
Melanie Willoughby, NJ Business Action Center

Courtenay Mercer, Downtown New Jersey

This panel was coordinated by Downtown New Jersey as part of the in-person 2021 NJLM Annual Conference, so there is no video of session.

Abandoned industrial sites, as well as closed gas stations, dry cleaners, old banks, and other vacant commercial properties plague NJ’s downtowns, but the redevelopment of these brownfields present opportunities to spur economic development, generate jobs, increase property values, and develop community needed land uses. Discover how to transform these properties into downtown assets.

Representatives from The NJ Brownfields Assistance Center @ NJIT discussed how to plan for, fund, and redevelop these potentially contaminated properties, as well as where you can get free technical assistance.

View PowerPoint>
Watch Video>

The State of NJ is in the process of implementing several programs that your downtown could benefit from are moving toward implementation. NJEDA’s Maggie Peters provided an overview of the Main Street Recovery Finance Program, including the Small Business Lease Assistance Grant and the Small Business Improvement Grant, both of which should hit the streets in September or October. We were also be joined by James Simmons of the NJ Urban Enterprise Zone to fill us in on the new legislation passed in August.

View PowerPoint>
Watch Video>

New Jersey businesses can start preparing now for implementation of a new law, which takes effect May 4, 2022, and ends the use of single-use plastic carryout bags and polystyrene foam food service products at retail stores and food service businesses. The use of single-use paper carryout bags will also be prohibited at grocery stores over 2,500 square feet. Plastic straws will be limited to by-request-only beginning Nov. 4, 2021. 

The NJ Business Action Center, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, and the NJ Clean Communities Council are working together to help communities and businesses understand and comply with the law. Melanie Willoughby, Executive Director of the NJ Business Action Center, presented an overview of the law, a discussion of frequently asked questions, an easy-to-read chart explaining what businesses are affected and how to comply, and showcased many other resources that are available at to help you help your businesses.

View PowerPoint>
Watch video>

We were joined by two experienced attorneys from Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis LLP to discuss the implications of NJ’s Cannabis Law. Steven G. Mlenak, Partner, will explain what municipalities/downtowns need to know if they do (or don’t) want to allow dispensaries or consumption areas in their community. Jemi Lucey, Partner, will provide information about what your downtown employers need to know; in particular, enforcement and liability related to employee use of cannabis (on and off the job).

View PPT>
Watch Video>

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on our downtowns and business communities. Those who made a concerted effort to adapt and proactively support their small businesses have fared better than communities that took a laissez faire approach. Learn how five different communities – the City of New Brunswick, the Town of Clinton, Union Township, City of Summit, and the City of Lambertville – reinvented their downtowns to help their business communities survive. Find out about initiatives that worked, and some that did not.


  • Nancy Adams, CMSM, Executive Director, Summit Downtown, Inc.
  • Emily Goldman, PP, AICP, Senior Associate, Clarke Caton Hintz
  • Janice Kovach, Mayor, Town of Clinton
  • Courtenay Mercer, PP, AICP, Executive Director, Downtown New Jersey
  • Carlos Sanchez, Economic Development Director, Township of Union

This webinar is organized by DNJ as part of the 2021 NJ Planning & Redevelopment Conference. Video of this session is only available to registered attendees of that event.

The pandemic spurred tremendous innovation in tactical approaches to expand the capacity of our streets to more safely accommodate people and commerce. These experiments validated the demand for complete streets that provide a better balance between roadway users. At the same time, many of these pilots highlighted real conflicts that need to be thought through more thoroughly if they are going to transition to permanent solutions. The session provided advice for those looking to transition from tactical to practical implementation of complete streets.


  • Mike Lydon, Principal, Street Plans
  • Betsy Mastaglio, Manager, Office of Transit, Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
  • Courtenay D. Mercer, Executive Director, Downtown New Jersey
  • Bob Noland, Director of the Voorhees Transportation Center, Director of the PhD program in Planning and Public Policy, and Distinguished Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy

Watch video>

This webinar was organized by DNJ as part of the 2021 NJ Bike & Walk Summit (a free event). View full program & watch videos>


It’s been a year since we were joined by Marta Person Villa, NJ Retail Lead and Senior Vice President with Jones Lang LaSalle and a former SID director, municipal administrator, and DNJ President. See what’s changed from the early days of the pandemic, and how that impacts “what’s next” for your downtown to recover from economic upheaval. Marta again shared recovery statistics showing current and imminent downtown retail occupancy conditions to map out a proactive recruitment strategy to expedite recovery.

View PowerPoint>                                                                                            Watch video>

NJ Department of Community Affairs’ Jef Buehler discussed best practices during a virtual walkthrough of downtown Frenchtown. During Part 2 of this two-part session, Jef will share experiences from Neighborhood Preservation Program initiatives throughout the state to highlight how communities can “Get Found” and “Be Open”. This presentation spurred a dialogue among forum participants about how to prepare downtown for recovery.

View PowerPoint>
Watch Part 2 Video>
(Part 2 only with forum participant discussion)

Full Preparing for the Post-Pandemic Video>
(Part 1 & 2 combined without participant discussion)

NJ Department of Community Affairs’ Jef Buehler discussed best practices during a virtual walkthrough of downtown Frenchtown. During Part 1 of this two-part session, Jef shared experiences from Neighborhood Preservation Program initiatives throughout the state to highlight how communities can “Get Together” and “Get Ready”. This presentation spurred a dialogue among forum participants about how to prepare downtown for recovery.

View PowerPoint>
Watch Part 1 Video>
(Part 1 only with forum participant discussion)

Watch Full Preparing for the Post-Pandemic Video>
(Part 1 & 2 combined without forum participant discussion)

 Facebook Group

Downtown New Jersey created a safe space for members and partners to exchange ideas about hot topics in downtown economic development. There are currently several feeds related to COVID-19 response.

Please note that you must answer the membership questions to be approved. We want to be sure only “real people” are joining, and we need to know who you are before we will approve your membership. Also, this group is is not intended for individual business owner participation, rather it is meant to be an exchange of ideas between those involved with the management of downtown business districts.

Join Group