Downtown New Jersey 2021 Conference

New Jersey Downtown Conference

Downtown Recovery:
Survive & Thrive in 2021

The premiere downtown economic development event of the year, the annual New Jersey Downtown Conference hosts industry experts who provide insights into downtown management best practices, as well as development, business and retail market trends.

This year, we’re going virtual. This enables us to offer even more educational opportunities, as well as unique networking experiences. And, we’ll still be recognizing achievement in the downtown space with our first ever Placemaking Awards.

Register by December 31, 2020 to enjoy Early Bird Rates!

  • Location: Virtual
  • Sponsorship:
    • Looking for advertising and exhibiting opportunities at the DNJ Conference, then consider becoming a sponsor. Every sponsorship level comes with at least one (1) registration, so be sure to check out conference sponsorship opportunities before you register. 
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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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Members receive discounted registration & sponsorship.
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Conference Agenda

11:15AM – 12:45PM: Welcome & Keynote

CDS Commercial District Services LLC

Title/Keynote Sponsor

Governor Phil Murphy will provide a short welcome address prior to the keynote speaker.

Charles Marohn, Founder and President of Strong Towns, will kick off the conference with a discussion built around The Local Leader’s Toolkit: A Strong Towns Response to the Pandemic.

Our cities and towns are supposed to be places of stability and prosperity. But the way our places have grown in recent decades has made them economically fragile (and too often culturally fragile as well). With the COVID-19 crisis, we’re experiencing what happens when that fragility is tested. Local leaders are on the front lines, facing head-on the challenges of our time. They are forced to innovate with systems naturally resistant to change. And to be successful, they must lead despite the anxiety and distrust that permeates modern discourse. During his keynote address, Charles Mahorn will detail the next steps local leaders must take to stabilize their communities and put them on a path to recovery.

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

Session Sponsor

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
  • William M. Rodgers III, Ph.D., Chief Economist, Heldrich Center for Workforce Development 
  • Moderator: Christina Fuentes, Director of Small Business Services, NJEDA

Title Sponsor

Tech Sponsor

AARP New Jersey

Session & Awards Program 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. 

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

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

New Jersey NJTOD

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.


  • Leslie A. Anderson, President and CEO, NJRA
  • Meghan Jack, Township Administrator, Riverside Township
    Paul Silverman, Principal, SILVERMAN
  • Deb Tantleff, Principal, TANTUM Real Estate
  • Moderator: Stephanie DiPetrillo, Senior Research Specialist, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center

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


Session Sponsor

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
  • Mayor Paul Kanitra, Point Pleasant Beach Borough
  • Mayor Sean Spiller, Montclair Township
  • Moderator, Robert Goldsmith, Partner, Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis, LLP
CDS Commercial District Services

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. The nomination deadline has passed. Stay tuned for an announcement of the winners.


Seeking AICP CM continuing education credits.

Thank you to our 2021 Sponsors!

Title Sponsor:

Title Sponsor:

Session Sponsors:

Downtown Ally:

DNJ Booster Club:


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Past Conferences