Downtown New Jersey 2021 Conference

Downtown Recovery:
Survive & Thrive in 2021

  • Location: Virtual
  • Sponsorship:
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  • Registration: 
    • Early Bird Rate – Register by Dec. 31, 2020:
      $55 (members), $65 (non-members)
    • Register after Dec. 31, 2020:
      $65 (members), $75 (non-members)

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Conference Agenda

12:00PM – 12:45PM: Keynote

Title/Keynote Sponsor

We have invited Governor Phil Murphy to speak about economic recovery plans for the state, particularly how his administration’s policy initiatives will help downtowns survive and thrive in 2021.

12:50PM – 1:35PM: Virtual Exhibit Hall & Networking
Chat with exhibitors, catch up with colleagues, and discuss hot topics with your peers.

1:45PM – 3:00PM: A Different Kind of Economic Recovery?
2020 has been a year like no other. This panel will provide attendees with high-level insight on the economic crisis and impacted sectors. Economic and industry experts will discuss how we’ve bounced back after natural disasters and economic downturns in the past, and look at the data and discuss future forecasts. Hear how this pandemic informs new strategies to build stronger more diverse local economies to manage the impact of future disruptions, incorporating workforce, college, and university partners to provide stability by reskilling and redeploying workers to growth industries. The panel will also provide insights about downtowns that survived past downturns in the economy, how this economic crisis differs, sustainability plans, and relationships with lenders.


  • Mike Berne, President, MJB Consulting
  • Richard Kasmin, Chief Economist, NJEDA
  • Lyneir Richardson, Executive Director, CUEED at Rutgers Business School
  • Other TBA once confirmed
  • Moderator: Christina Fuentes, Director of Small Business Services, NJEDA

Title Sponsor

Tech Sponsor

12:00PM – 1:15PM: Placemaking for the Win

Thriving downtowns capitalize on their community assets to create intentional spaces that encourage visitors to not only shop and dine, but immerse themselves in the downtown experience. This creates a sense of place that attracts visitors, builds pride, and nurtures loyalty. Placemaking does not just happen, it is achieved through a multi-pronged approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces that is supported by substantial community collaboration. This panel brings together professionals actively engaged in placemaking who will share real life implementation strategies to take your downtown from ho-hum to wow. 


  • Isaac Kremer, Executive Director, Metuchen Downtown Association
  • Jaime Izurieta, Storefront Ninja, Storefront Mastery
  • Suzanne Ishee, Director, NJIT Hub for Creative Placemaking

This is the second of a two-part placemaking series. In October, Isaac & Jaime shared advice about innovative “Winning Winter” placemaking strategies. Exemplary placemaking projects and initiatives will be highlighted as best practices during this session, and recognized in an awards ceremony after the session.

1:15PM – 1:30PM: Placemaking Awards
Downtown New Jersey will recognize excellent placemaking projects and initiatives intended to help small businesses survive and thrive during the shut down and capacity limitations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about how to submit your placemaking initiative for consideration, visit Nominations are due December 18, 2020.

1:30PM – 2:15PM: Virtual Exhibit Hall & Networking
Chat with exhibitors, catch up with colleagues, and discuss hot topics with your peers.

2:30PM – 3:45PM: Retail in the Changing Downtown Environment
The pandemic has accelerated a change in the downtown retail environment which was already underway. It has also provided retailers with an opportunity to reevaluate things that aren’t working and refocus their energy particularly toward multiple revenue streams. We are now forced to ask fundamental questions: What is the role of the physical store in this new landscape? Is the typical retail footprint/streetscape relationship still valid and if so what opportunities are available for it to be enhanced? How can community engagement be maintained/enhanced? What kind of demands are expected for smaller retail footprints and can a new mix of typologies be successfully accommodated within a typical ground floor retail format? How are Landlords considering modifications to leasing practices/portfolio strategies in response?

The panel is made up from academic professionals and industry thought leaders who will bring their unique viewpoints to address these questions.


  • Harriet Harris, Dean of Architecture, Pratt
  • Larisa Ortiz, Managing Director, Research + Analysis, StreetSense
  • Lara Marrero, Retail Leader, Strategy Director, Principal, Gensler
  • Darius Sollohub, Associate Professor, Hillier College of Arch & Design, NJIT

4:00PM – 5:15PM: Virtual Tour & Happy Hour

Session Sponsor

Join us for a virtual tour of downtown Newark culminating in a cocktail mixing class featuring local spirits. Afterward, join your colleagues for an informal happy hour and discussion about NJ’s liquor license laws.

Tour Guide:

  • Emily Manz, EMI Strategy

Title Sponsor

Tech Sponsor

12:00PM – 1:15PM: Disrupted Development

Session Sponsor

The pandemic is the latest in a series of major disruptors affecting the development pipeline. In the last two decades, NJ has had to adapt to the impacts of terrorism, climate change, and economic uncertainty. Disruption means that the development community has had to adapt to shutdowns, slowdowns, supply and labor shortages, and increased uncertainty. It has also had to rethink design to better accommodate safety concerns. And, there are always conflicting projections about how these shifts will shape where people will choose to live, how they will commute, and the future of the workplace. This panel brings together experts actively engaged in the development process to discuss adapting to disrupted development.


  • Paul Silverman, Principal, SILVERMAN
  • TBA as confirmed
  • Moderator: Stephanie DiPetrillo, Senior Research Specialist, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center

Session Sponsor:

1:15PM – 1:30PM: Break & Virtual Networking

1:30PM – 2:45PM: Mayor’s Round Table
The old troupe about the power of NJ’s municipalities under home rule is only partially true. Yes, municipalities have significant land use powers, which can be a benefit and a detriment to downtown revitalization, depending on the dynamics of a particular town. State and federal policy initiatives also have a significant impact on a downtown’s ability to thrive. COVID relief, recreational marijuana, liquor licenses, slow streets, and redevelopment incentives are just a few policy initiatives that come to mind. We’re bringing together a panel of NJ mayors to discuss both the actions they can take, as well as the policy initiatives they hope the state and federal government will implement to support our downtowns.


  • Mayor Sheena Collum, South Orange Village
  • Mayor Betsy Driver, Flemington Borough (tentative)
  • Mayor Paul Kanitra, Point Pleasant Beach Borough
  • Mayor Sean Spiller, Montclair Township
  • Other TBA when confirmed

Title Sponsor

Tech Sponsor

During the conference, Downtown New Jersey will recognize excellent placemaking projects and initiatives intended to help small businesses survive and thrive during the shut down and capacity limitations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nominations are due December 18, 2020.
More information>


Seeking AICP CM continuing education credits.

Thank you to our 2021 Sponsors!

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