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When Public-Private Partnerships Come Together, Everyone Wins

By Steve Hillyer
Journal Square Restoration Corporation & Commercial District Services, LLC
June 19, 2018

This Article discusses how the Journal Square SID leveraged a partnership to rapidly produce an event series in the summer of 2017. For a more insights on how a SID can form partnerships to create successful projects please see the Insights for District Managers section after the article.

While many are aware of the renaissance happening in downtown Jersey City, few understand the development boom that is on the horizon in other parts of the city like Journal Square.

To those unfamiliar with the area and its interest in the development world: imagine a semi-dense neighborhood of 2-3 family houses, low rise apartments, that is bustling but not overdone. Now throw in the 3rd busiest PATH station and one of the county’s largest bus & shuttle transportation hubs that runs a bus a minute for every minute of morning and afternoon rush hour.

Journal Square is perfectly situated to regain its former glory as Jersey City’s official downtown and shopping haven as the area continues to develop. Journal Square is also a shining example of Jersey City’s world renowned diversity and is home to many amazing restaurants, cultures and community.

Journal Squared
Photo: Journal Square Restoration Corp.

Driving on the Turnpike or coming in off Route 1&9 you may have seen the first of many planned high-rise apartments proposed in Journal Square. Welcome to Journal Squared. This beautiful, market rate apartment building is the first to open in Journal Square and was able to completely rent all 533 apartments in 8 months of opening its doors.

As a part of the Journal Squared development agreement, the Hilltop Neighborhood Association pushed for the developer (KRE Group) to create and activate a public plaza on the East side of the PATH station. When Journal Squared opened in the Spring of 2017, the management team knew this was their opportunity to put their resources into creating a great public space that would be an oasis for residents and a draw for visitors.

After meeting with the Journal Square Restoration Corporation and discussing the possibilities for activation, a partnership was formed. The SID for the neighborhood, Journal Square Restoration Corporation, pulled in market organizer MarketplaceJC and coordinated with the City’s office of Cultural Affairs to create and fully permit the event. Journal Squared’s team put their marketing crew to work to create awesome branding and digital marketing pieces for the events. Journal Squared showed their long-term commitment to the space and the community through their purchase of 20 pop-up tents and 30 sets of tables and chairs for year one to get off the ground.

MarketplaceJC @ Magnolia Landing
Photo: Journal Square Restoration Corp.

In about 6 weeks, the event series was fully off the ground and ran for 7 events throughout the summer. This year, with much more time to prep, the partnership is at it again with a 16 event Summer Series called MarketplaceJC @Magnolia Landing.

The success of this community activation would not have been possible without the City’s ability to put the red tape aside to support our creativity and vision; without Journal Squared’s initiative and financial commitment; without MarketplaceJC’s passion for community events; and without the SID pulling all the pieces together, this project would not have been possible.

Thanks to Journal Squared’s continued commitment to improving the Journal Square community MarketplaceJC @Magnolia Landing runs every 1st & 3rd Saturday from now till November you can come out to Magnolia Landing to get some delicious food, amazing crafts, and listen to the musical stylings of artists from around the region thanks to The Riverview Jazz Organization.

Insights for District Managers

Public-Private Partnerships seem like a utopian idea where a private entity funds a project and it magically comes to life. In reality, developing a partnership is much more challenging and takes a fair deal of relationship building. What a District Manager needs to understand is that just like the district’s budget, businesses are limited as to what they can reasonably give away as a contribution, so it is important that you understand their needs and address them in your partnership proposal.

This project was the perfect storm: the developers needed to activate a public space, and a market organizer was looking for a new market location. The SID had the institutional knowledge and connections to organize and create the event, so it was just a matter of putting all the pieces together.

Magnolia Landing Project Team
Photo: Journal Square Restoration Corp.

Partnerships work best when there are common goals, defined roles, and good communication. To achieve success in Journal Square this is how it played out:

  • Common Goals: set the tone in this new public space through activation and attracting media attention to this “new” neighborhood.
  • Defined Roles:
    • Journal Squared – Marketing design & promotions
    • JSRC (SID) – Permitting and event staffing
    • Marketplace JC – Vendor organizing
  • Communication: the partners met weekly for six weeks to get the project off the ground, and emailed regularly to ensure all tasks were being completed.

With Special Improvement Districts, results are not always tangible so it is important to find metrics to measure your efforts. While the event ran, JSRC kept track of all of the media outlets and calendars that reported on the event; used clickers to measure pedestrian activity; surveyed vendors about their impressions of the event and how it was organized; and worked continuously to take all this data back to the lab to continue updating our project.

While this market was a spontaneous idea that the three partners quickly got behind, partnerships typically take time to develop. For the best likelihood of success in raising money or building partnerships a District Manager should:

  • Be prepared with a fully formed idea of the project, and understand any weaknesses, threats, or hurdles (and how to mitigate them).
  • Have a defined ask of what you need from the partner.
  • Show a clear return on investment from the partner’s participation in the project that aligns with their business goals.

Steve Hillyer is the Director of Technology for Commercial District Services, LLC. CDS provides public spaces maintenance and management to over 15 business improvement districts in northern New Jersey. To learn more about CDS please visit:

Follow Steve on Twitter & Instagram @steven_hillyer, or email him at


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