New Jersey Future forum focuses on redevelopment

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

“How do we create those great places that are walkable, that are compact, that are dense, where companies want to move to and where people want to move to?” asked Peter Kasabach, the executive director of New Jersey Future.

Kasabach spoke at the company’s redevelopment forum. He said a lot of it comes from local leadership.

“Right now, many towns have zoning codes that are in place that get a result that’s not what the town actually wants,” said Kasabach.

For example, a panel on working with communities to help counter a “NIMBY”, or not in my backyard, perception.

“Sometimes you have a lot of projects that are negative because they have affordable housing, too much traffic or a lot of school children,” said Bob Ceberio, the founder and president of the strategic planning and management consulting firm RCM Ceberio.

The discussion at the forum focused on using techniques like education and outreach to overcome barriers.

“The most important thing you can do as a developer or public official is not allow a negative aspect fill the information void,” said Ceberio.

Bruce Katz, the keynote speaker and co-founder of New Localism Advisors, says it’s a crowd coming together to collaborate to compete.

“It’s public, private, civic, university, community,” said Katz. “Everyone has to focus on the basics, the quality of place, security, and talent.”

But talent seems to be leaving the state. According to the NJBIA, the state lost 184,000 millennials from 2007 to 2016. Another panel discussed solutions to attract and keep that generation here.

“There isn’t a diversity of housing options. There’s only single family homes. If you’re straight out of graduate school, for example, you may not be able to afford a single family home,” said New Jersey Future’s Planning and Policy Associate Kandyce Perry. “Incorporating affordable housing into some of the development patterns would really help.”

When it comes to development, the planning manager of New Jersey Future, David Kutner, says it’s important to talk about climate change and approaches municipalities can take to guarantee their economic viability in the long term.

According to Climate Central’s worst case scenario, by 2100 the ocean will cover land where 710,000 New Jerseyans now live, putting $199 billion worth of property at risk.

“In a lot of cases in these communities along the shore, families don’t have mortgages any longer. They pass their houses down from family to family. It’s a very, very difficult shift,” said Kutner.

Another difficult shift — updating the state’s aging infrastructure. In 2016, New Jersey got a D-plus on its infrastructure report card put out by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“Infrastructure creates access, access creates value, we need to recycle that value we’re creating by our infrastructure investments back into infrastructure,” said George Vallone of the Hoboken Brownstone Company.

“You’ve got a lot of good bones in this state. You’re about the most rail transit place, you’ve got a lot of quality town centers, they need to be unlocked for 21st century growth,” explained Katz.

The keynote speaker also had this suggestion for growth: Working across jurisdictions as metropolitan regions because New Jersey has so many small municipalities.