Downtown Management Forum: COVID-19 Exchanges

Downtown Management Forum: COVID-19 Exchanges

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 in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Check out the opportunities to interact with your peers below. Also, be sure to reference our COVID-19 Resource Page with rolling updates as new information, policy, legislation, and funding becomes available. 

Live Web Forums

Upcoming Forums

None scheduled at this time. Stay tuned…

Have a topic you want to hear more about? Email your suggestions to info@downtownnj.com.

Past Forums

Summaries, videos, PowerPoints and other resources

Events amid the COVID-19 pandemic require a bit more creativity and must be implemented with special care to ensure public safety. At this forum, we heard how downtowns are reinventing their events. We were joined by John Donio, President of Wildwood BID, Ollyn Lettman, Director of Bloomfield Center Alliance,  and Emily Manz of EMI Strategy who shared their experiences staging in-person and virtual events. 

View Forum Summary>
View PowerPoint>
View Video>

Small businesses in communities nationwide are facing the risk of permanent closure. To help address these challenges, Streetsense in partnership with LISC, created the Commercial District Recovery Guide that provides place-based organizations and intermediary partners focused on community economic development with a curated roadmap for action to support COVID-19 recovery efforts in downtowns and commercial districts. This forum was led by Larisa Ortiz, Managing Director of Research & Analysis at Streetsense, who provided an overview of the guide to kick-off an exchange of ideas among forum participants.

View Recovery Guide>

View Forum Summary>
View PowerPoint>
View Video>

As our downtown retail establishments are permitted to reopen in the coming weeks, will need to employ design countermeasures to survive the short term and to thrive in the long term.  At this forum, we learned best practices from industry experts, and how NJ business owners are handling the transition.

Panelists:

Forum Summary>
Watch Video>
View PowerPoint>

Now more than ever, “going digital” is necessary to stay relevant and present in the consumer’s mind. At this forum, we heard about a few of the digital resources that our members have found valuable for both their downtown and their businesses.  

Panelists:

Kenneth A. Gruskin, AIA, PP, CID, Principal, Gruskin Group
Ken provided an overview of MyDowntown Mobile® – A branded service offering of Gruskin Group, and shared how towns have been using it to effectively communicate with their community during the pandemic.

Kate Giovambattista, Founder, Beyond Main
Kate provided an overview of Beyond Main, an online local marketplace for downtown districts and small businesses.

Ray Painter, Publisher, Edible Jersey
Ray provided an overview of Edible Jersey‘s partnership with Local Line to create My Community Market for farmers’ market vendors to open online stores. He also talked about an opportunity to promote your downtown restaurants in the next issue of Edible Jersey.

Forum Summary>
Watch Video>
View PowerPoint>

On May 22nd, the NJEDA Board approved an additional $45 million in funding to small businesses from the State’s federal CARES Act allocation. At this forum, Christina Fuentes, Director of Small Business Services at NJEDA provided more information about eligibility and applying for Phase 2 of the Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program.

Forum Summary>
Watch Video>
View PowerPoint>

Towns should be looking at their ordinances and permitting processes now to ensure they fully support their businesses’ ability to adapt to social distancing expectations. Some communities are looking at street closures, enabling expansion of restaurant/retail into parking lots, relaxing sign rules, revising on-street parking rules to enable pick-up and delivery, etc. Others are also working to revise use restrictions to provide flexibility in filling anticipated vacancies. The discussion was led by Bob Zuckerman, President of Downtown New Jersey with input from Courtenay Mercer, Executive Director of Downtown New Jersey; Nancy Adams, Councilperson in Maplewood; and Stuart Koperweis, Executive Director of Hoboken Business Alliance

Forum Summary>
Watch Video>
View Powerpoint>

Farmers Markets are a wonderful way to provide residents with fresh produce and unique packaged goods, while also supporting NJ’s farmers and local small business producers of packaged goods. If done right, they can even alleviate some of the anxiety many are experiencing shopping at large grocery stores or struggling to get a delivery slot. At this forum, the discussion was led by two BIDs that began planning early with an eye toward maximizing safety for both vendors and consumers. Rachel Sieg of the HDSID shared the details of their upcoming traditional walk-up market in downtown Jersey City; and Rebecca Hersh shares her experience setting up Main Street Highland Park‘s drive-through market. 

Forum Summary>
Watch Video>

Downtown New Jersey has been invited to provide input into the State’s reopening strategies. In preparation for that discussion, we’d like to hear your concerns, ideas, and needs for reopening safely. In this open exchange, come prepared to discuss both the needs for your businesses and for your own operations within the downtown district.

Forum Summary>

As part of Sustainable Jersey’s Virtual Summit, Downtown New Jersey Executive Director, Courtenay Mercer and NJDCA’s NPP Administrator, Jef Buehler discussed how we can support local business when it’s not business as usual. They explored new strategies to engage the community through the Support Local Economies and Buy Local Program Sustainable Jersey actions.

Forum Summary>
Watch Video>
View PowerPoint>

The COVID 19 pandemic has left many downtown organizations with budget shortfalls, either from special event cancellations, stalled membership drives or fundraising events that have been postponed. Board members are asking how to we readjust our downtown organization’s budget to deal with these new and changing realities? The conversation was led by Donna Ann Harris of Heritage Consulting Inc., a Philadelphia based firm that works nationally in downtown and commercial district revitalization. Over the years Donna has worked with many Main Street New Jersey communities on board training and development, fundraising and strategic planning. Donna provided insights about the board’s role in financial oversight, and gave some tips about making cuts to your budget if absolutely necessary.

Forum Summary>
Watch Video>
View PowerPoint>

At this forum, 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. Ms. Villa discussed “what’s next” – how does your downtown recover from economic upheaval, and what can you do now to plan for a time when we’re all back to business? Using global recovery statistics as a backdrop, she showed current and imminent downtown retail occupancy conditions, and mapped out a proactive recruitment strategy to expedite recovery starting in the 3rd quarter.

Forum Summary>
Watch Video>
View PowerPoint>

Mike Blinder, Founder & President of The Blinder Group, publisher of Editor & Publisher Magazine, and author of Survival Selling Even in the Toughest Times presented his Survival Marketing Workshop on how to market effectively in tough economic times.
 
 

Thank you to TAPinto for sponsoring this forum.

At this forum, we were joined by Christina Fuentes, Director of Small Business Services at NJEDA and Erika Calderon, Small Business Legislative Aid from Senator Menendez’s office to discuss programs, policies, and legislation that have passed or are being considered to provide economic relief to downtowns and small business.

Forum Summary>
Watch Video>

At this first forum, there was not a formal presentation. Instead, participants shared best practices and discussed needs. 

Forum Summary>
Listen to Audio>

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.