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New Jersey municipalities focus on downtown development

Downtowns in New Jersey continue a resurgence that has been spurred partly by changing tastes, but also driven by economic reality.

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Michael Shake, ThinkStock

Robert Goldsmith, the president of Downtown New Jersey, said New Jersey downtowns are going through a resurgence not seen since after World War II.

According to Goldsmith, policies of Democratic and Republican governors and Legislatures have focused on the idea of smart growth by directing development toward urban and suburban centers that already have existing infrastructures and mass transit.

Goldsmith said downtowns are gaining momentum with both a demographic shift as well as a policy shift. He said the urban centers of Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken, New Brunswick, Freehold, Red Bank, Westfield and Ridgewood are all seeing a rebirth of activity and reinvestment.

“A lot of restaurants coming downtown, bringing people in from suburban areas” Goldsmith said.

And while restaurants continue to draw people in, so do the unique shopping experiences that many New Jersey downtowns offer. In many cases, downtowns are home to stores that offer one-of-a-kind “boutique experiences,” according to Goldsmith.

In addition, New Jersey’s downtowns are attracting millennials, who are driving less than previous generations and are more interested in living in walkable communities.

Transit-oriented development, which has mostly focused on train stations, has also contributed to the resurgence of downtowns, according to Goldsmith.

“I think that there are more than 300 municipalities in New Jersey that have train stations in them,” Goldsmith said.

Activity also plays a role.

Goldsmith said more activity brings greater safety and security, both from a real actual point of view, as well as a perceived point of view. From the perspective of local town fathers, a popular and developed downtown offers, “greater rents, greater ratables, greater tax revenue.”

Goldsmith said with more people and more activity, downtowns start to become destinations.



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