How do you ensure your town’s streets are not just for cars, but for people, bikes, wheelchairs—and even water? And when bike lanes are seen as “white lanes” and a sign of gentrification, how can you build social equity into a city’s pedestrian safety plans?
These are just some of the questions addressed at the Green Streets, Complete Neighborhoods panel during New Jersey Future’s 2020 Redevelopment Forum.
Panel-goers heard from New Jersey Future Planning and Policy Manager Kandyce Perry, Tri-State Transportation Campaign Deputy Director Janna Chernetz, Smart Growth America Deputy Director of Thriving Communities Emily Schweninger and Jersey City Director of Transportation Planning Barkha Patel.
Perry showed how complete Streets—designed to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities—are an opportunity to weave in green infrastructure.
Green streets are “designed for cars, people and water” by incorporating green infrastructure practices like rain gardens and stormwater tree trenches in excess street space. When stormwater runs off of impervious surfaces like roadways and sidewalks many negative effects are felt like more frequent flash flooding, street closings, property damage and sewer overflows. Green infrastructure does not promise to stop the next Hurricane Sandy, but it can very effectively mitigate damage from 90% of New Jersey’s rain events, which are increasingly common in a changing climate.
Implementing green infrastructure can also create green jobs in your municipality. Green streets can be a traffic calming measure, reduce sewer overflows and earn your town Sustainable Jersey points.
And green infrastructure costs don’t have to be off the charts. According to Perry, the measures can present a cost savings or can be cost-neutral. Department of Transportation local aid grants may be available, and coordinating green upgrades with other street retrofit projects can save both funds and time.
The perception of high costs is not the only roadblock to adapting New Jersey’s streets. A lack of clarity and accountability on the policy side has held back complete streets and green infrastructure projects, but a Model Complete Street Policy and Guide from the New Jersey Department of Transportation that Janna Chernetz presented is full of actionable language that can be tailored to each community.
While there are 166 municipal resolutions and 8 county resolutions for complete streets, Chernetz said “without a policy, there’s no implementation.” NJDOT’s policy and guide, developed in partnership with many collaborators like New Jersey Future and Tri-State, provides guidance for communities to create complete and green streets according to current best practices and includes sample language for communities to amend existing complete street policies or adopt new ones with strengthened implementation measures and checklists. The policy and guide makes the connection between complete streets and health, economic development, equity, and green streets.
Scotch Plains, Roselle Park, Lower Alloways Creek and Upper Township are early adopters of the model policy, and Eatontown has passed the state’s first complete streets ordinance.
When moving forward with complete and green streets , it’s important to take an equity-centered approach. Emily Schweninger of Smart Growth America shared her story of growing up with a family who relied on “one of those hope and prayer cars” and braced for repairs that would drastically impact the household finances and her family’s ability to reach their day-to-day destinations. If viable transportation alternatives and complete street features in her community were available, financial pressures could have been eased on her family. Schweninger presented the six equity strategies Smart Growth America keeps top of mind when addressing complete streets.
Prioritizing historically under-represented communities in transportation decision-making is one of these strategies, and Jersey City baked it into their Vision Zero action plan. An executive order by the mayor directs agencies to work together at completely eliminating pedestrian fatalities and severe automobile crashes by 2026.
The city mapped crashes and identified “communities of concern” with identifying characteristics like high minority populations, low-income populations, and where populations carless households and female heads of households with children are equal to or exceed the regional threshold. “When we mapped these areas it covered more than 80 percent of the city,” Patel explained.
The city is exploring iterative solutions in the high-priority areas so that residents in those communities have a high degree of ownership over the changes. “We weren’t asking communities who relied on their cars for their lives to give them up,” Patel said. Instead, the plan is to try demonstration projects, such as building a bike lane for a weekend, and have the community involved in building them.
A new micro-transit service used in the city, Via, was also implemented with equity in mind. The shared ride service (where rides start at $2) is not meant to replace Uber and Lyft, taxi, and public transportation services, but instead, provides a reliable, low-cost alternative for the city’s hardest hit communities. To that end, the service is divided into an inner zone and an outer zone to prevent the waterfront area from absorbing all the service.
“We want to make sure Jersey City remains a place for families–where people can put down roots,” Patel said, summing up the vision of the city’s plans and a core goal of both and Complete and Green Streets.
This summary was written by Andrea Crowley-Hughes.
Professionals from across New Jersey came to New Jersey Future’s Redevelopment Forum to understand how their everyday work can tackle big problems. For issues such as homelessness, pollution and transportation inequity, the solution often lies in collaboration.
Sean Agid of Corvias, Andy Kricun, Senior Advisor at Moonshot Missions and Senior Fellow for the US Water Alliance, New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) Chief of Staff Katie Brennan, and Cross County Connection TMA Executive Director Ronda Urkowitz, outlined real examples of when governments link up with private agencies to benefit vulnerable populations.
In New Jersey, stormwater pollution makes up 60 percent of water pollution. It represents an environmental challenge, a burden on budgets, and it impedes local development and economic growth.
In communities such as the City of Chester, PA, economic distress makes an investment in tackling this type of pollution unpopular, as the city is working with a $50 million total city budget, inclusive of police and fire. That’s where Corvias came in with a community partnership.
Corvias provided the working capital to establish partnerships and developed a funding mechanism, according to Agid. More than $1 million in grants were secured to establish a stormwater utility fee, more than 400 projects were analyzed and prioritized and 11 outreach meetings were held in each ward of the city. The city is not responsible for any payments until the infrastructure is implemented and certified, and even then payment will be through a low-interest loan.
“Green and gray stormwater projects are underway which will beautify the city,” Agid said.
700 of 17,000 catch basins were cleaned and assessed within the first six months, 12,000 gallons of standing water and 42,000 gallons of debris were removed.
In Camden, NJ, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) addresses stormwater and youth employment together in an innovative partnership called PowerCorps. PowerCorps Camden is an AmeriCorps program that aims to increase the economic opportunity of Camden youth through job training and readiness surrounding green infrastructure, Kricun explained. Youth program participants are educated on the importance of stormwater management through green infrastructure, and are trained on how to maintain installations, including rain gardens, city and county parks, vacant lots, and stormwater inlets. “Through this partnership, PowerCorps members get meaningful job experience, while also having a real and lasting impact on the City”, Kricun said.
Housing makes a significant difference in healthcare outcomes, and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency’s Housing First pilot with hospitals in the state is a way to make a change in the lives of frequent Emergency Room patients. NJHMFA can be thought of as a “mission-driven bank,” said Brennan. The agency provides funding for affordable homeownership and rental housing opportunities across the state, and in the Housing First pilot, it partnered with hospitals to build nearby housing with set-asides for frequent patients.
After NJHMFA’s board approved a $12 million investment and sent letters of interest in 2018, the agency got responses from eight geographically diverse hospitals, and moved forward with four to five projects in Paterson, Newark and Camden, with the first projects receiving Declarations of Intent in July 2019. “We had to learn one another’s language,” Brennan said. “We knew this wasn’t going to be one-size-fits all and every single one was going to be different.” Sample project financing and other details can be found in Brennan’s presentation.
But past data shows that this effort is worth it for the outcomes. The Greater Trenton Housing First program cited a 78% reduction in ER and inpatient costs for individuals housed through the program, for example, reducing annual individual costs from $25K to $5K per year.
The future of NJHMFA’s work includes thinking beyond one-off developments and ensuring the neighborhoods they are placed in are not left behind. The agency plans an expansion to fund rehabilitation efforts in neighborhoods surrounding hospitals through partnerships with on-the-ground NGOs and CDCs, as well as funding fit-ups of first floors in new developments for medical facilities to serve local communities.
The South Jersey area served by Cross County Connection TMA is rural and suburban, with a low population density, so obtaining public transit is a particular challenge. Urkowitz spoke of Amazon fulfillment center workers who can’t get to their jobs because existing transit doesn’t operate reliably on the weekend, or during second and third shifts. Access to reliable transit is essential to addressing poverty, health, education and other needs, she explained.
South Jersey Shuttles Community Shuttles, funded by a partnership between the Pascale Sykes Foundation and New Jersey Transit, are the solution. They are fixed route, ADA-compliant shuttles with designated stops, and they connect to existing rail service.
“We are definitely serving the transit-dependent,” Urkowitz said. Fifty-six percent have no access to a vehicle and 25 percent transfer to or from NJTransit.
Because of the partnership, the shuttles, which provide vital connection to jobs, medical appointments and even the Community Food Bank of NJ, are 100 percent grant funded. NJTransit pays for operating expenses only, and their grants require a 50 percent match, which is provided by the Pascale Sykes Foundation, an organization with a vision of “a world where all low-income families can thrive.” As a direct result of this partnership, ridership has increased over 160 percent in 5 years, the formerly unemployed are now employed, and more people are accessing social services.
Cross County Connection is on its own mission now—to make sure the shuttles stay funded. Help from the Pascale Sykes Foundation is sunsetting in 2022, but the NJTransit funding still needs to be matched. In preparation for this hurdle, the TMA is working toward continued increased ridership to show the persistent need for the service, improving support from local, county and state government and engaging the healthcare community.
Feedback from users will also help tell the story of how the shuttle sustains lives. As Jerome, a Rt 54.40 passenger interviewed for the Tell Us Your Story campaign said, “It would be like an eclipse, a rough change without the shuttle.”
This summary was written by Andrea Crowley-Hughes.
Build communities, not neighborhoods
New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the country, but, as Natasha Encarnacion, Assistant Director of Programs at the New Jersey Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency, points out, “you can be diverse and still have segregation.”
So how, then, do we combat segregation? The All In: Redevelopment Strategies To Achieve Equity panel at New Jersey Future’s 2020 Redevelopment Forum was unanimous: integration.
“Why are we still talking about affordable housing 50 years [after the Mount Laurel doctrine]?” New Jersey Redevelopment Authority President and Chief Executive Officer, and moderator of the panel, Leslie Anderson asked, referring to the New Jersey Supreme Court decision requiring municipalities to use their zoning powers to allow and encourage the development of affordable housing. “We’re still talking about affordable housing 50 years later because of who we want to live next to. Or who we don’t want to live next to.”
The decision of who gets to be our neighbor is not only determined by where we move. Rev. Dobson explained how, historically, federal and local zoning practices have been used to lock certain people—particularly people with lower incomes and people of color—out of high opportunity areas.
“The machinery of this country does everything possible to make sure black and brown folks don’t get ahead. That’s the purpose of housing policy, transportation, education, you name it. We know what the data says. We know the health determinants,” said Rev. Dobson.
The panelists agreed that the Mount Laurel doctrine was a step in the right direction to creating a pathway for people of lower-income brackets to achieve homeownership in communities that have historically kept them out. But creating opportunity and cultivating equity are not one in the same, and integration within the context of redevelopment is about more than affordable housing.
The solution is an uncomfortable one. “We’re still talking about the surface of things around diversity, but no, we have a serious issue around race. So how do we develop when we haven’t talked and haven’t had a real discussion about race in this country?” asked Rev. Dobson.
Now is the time to have that real discussion. Encarnacion shared that strong leadership and community engagement are two vital components to achieving integration, which she defines as communities where everyone who wants to live there is able to live there.
“We have people who have strong voices, and they’re loud, and they are able to make it difficult [for elected officials] to get another term, but if you step in and you do the hard work and you set the tone, and you get people to come along with you, then you can start building,” said Encarnacion.
Even before that building begins, integration should be at the front of everyone’s minds. Building a team of diverse community developers with diverse viewpoints will drive competition and ultimately result in a higher-quality, more affordable development. “It’s a pro-market dynamic in a lot of ways. When we talk about diversity in the market and is it a pro-market thing? I would say to folks ‘absolutely’,” said Karim Huston, Founder and Managing Member of Genesis Companies.
A diverse development team coupled with local leadership that values an engaged community can produce affordable housing that nurtures opportunity. Affordable housing carries a lot of stigma from the structure itself to the people who call places home. Encarnacion pointed out that the people who live in affordable housing are often people just beginning their careers, new families, or families where one parent works and the other takes care of young children. Most importantly, these are people who work hard and have aspirations.
“Affordable housing is for people who work every day of their lives, that want to pay their bills, that want to be somewhere comfortable and safe for their families and their kids,” Encarnacion explained. “If we start to work on resetting the narrative and changing the language that we use when we speak about redevelopment and integrated housing and stop using the buzzwords that usually turn people off, when we start to explain it, I think that people will understand it.”
Similarly, affordable housing does not mean cutting corners. “In many people’s minds, affordable design and affordable housing is something ugly, and that’s not the case at all,” said Peter Bafitis, Managing Principal of RKTB Architects. “Good design is good design no matter what level you’re building it for. Economical construction fosters a sense of security and creation of healthy living environments go hand in hand.”
Bafitis explained that, in addition to housing considerations, integrated communities are marked by mixed-use buildings with access to transit options. The bones for these communities are easily found in our urban centers where revitalizing existing structures, rather than building from scratch, to create mixed-use and mixed-income buildings will have a social and economic stabilizing effect.
Integrated communities are strong communities, and they can be achieved by embracing one of New Jersey’s strongest assets: diversity.
This summary was written by Missy Rebovich from New Jersey Future.
New Jersey Future convened participants with a range of perspectives on and experience with the state plan for the Beyond the Horizon: The Future of the State Plan session at its 2020 Redevelopment Forum. A roundtable format was chosen so participants could talk through ideas and challenges while gathering audience feedback in real time. Donna Rendeiro and Edward McKenna moderated the discussion.
Participants in the roundtable session included:
New Jersey Future has been involved with the State Plan since the organization began as a way to halt a disturbing trend that had taken hold in the state: sprawl. The 2001 New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan provided an effective framework to encourage concentrated growth in certain areas and preservation in others, participants agreed. But what are New Jersey’s current challenges, and how can a state plan best address them?
At the time of the conference, four new members had just been added to the State Planning Commission (SPC), the body responsible for oversight of planning issues that affect New Jersey, and installed a new Chair. While there are still three vacancies, the SPC’s 12 members are more than enough for a quorum. Additionally, the Office of Planning Advocacy, charged with implementing the goals of the current state plan, has hired three more planners, who, in the short term, are working with the 95 municipalities with expiring centers designations. So far, work is underway in 62 of these municipalities.
The current state plan, a 360-page document, has been received differently among New Jersey’s 560 municipalities. While some have embraced it, many find it overwhelmingly detailed and do not have the resources necessary for full implementation. Harris noted that municipalities are interested in planning, but need help to do the level of planning required by the current state plan. Participants agreed that a new state plan needs to be more streamlined and address current issues, and, as Kennedy said, not “swing at the ghost of sprawl.” These issues include resilience, equity, and infrastructure, and were not incorporated in the 2001 document. The idea of using the framework of the 2001 document produced differing views, with some seeing it as a viable and efficient option and others seeing it as an exercise that would result in another exhaustively-detailed plan.
Participants and audience members noted that active outreach to local governments will be essential to the successful local adoption of the state plan. Lane explained that the Somerset County reinvestment framework was developed after years of meeting with municipalities to determine where the local goals overlapped with the county’s goals. The county plan was developed to reinforce and support local goals. The Office of Planning Advocacy should consider this sort of bottom-up approach when developing the next iteration of the state plan, an audience member suggested.
According to Rendeiro, the immediate task is walking the municipalities withexpiring centers through the process of redesignation, and updating the state plan will come later, suggesting that there is time to work out how a final product should look.
The greatest obstacle to local buy-in through the plan endorsement process is lack of resources. Harris noted that, as mayor of Chatham Borough, he readily engaged in the process of becoming a certified town in the Sustainable Jersey municipal certification program because the program offered templates for ordinances and other resources to help towns along. Rendeiro explained that the Office of Planning Advocacy is in talks with Sustainable Jersey to work out a way for towns to use certain Sustainable Jersey actions to count toward plan endorsement actions, where relevant. This could also help encourage towns to engage in the plan endorsement process who may not have otherwise. Esser suggested that the Office of Planning Advocacy develop a set of resources including model ordinances, best practices, and templates to take the financial pressure off towns.
Municipalities also need to be able to see what they will get out of this process, and the way to show them this is by organizing state agencies and their benefits, said Kennedy. Lane explained how Somerset County’s work with its municipalities enabled them to access grants and other funding sources because their plans were consistent with the state plan. In the absence of a statewide economic incentive program, these benefits could include points on competitive grant applications and priority access to Infrastructure Bank loans, among others.
In addition to working to streamline the plan endorsement process, the Office of Planning Advocacy and the State Planning Commission are working closely with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to develop resilience measures that municipalities will be required to address as part of their planning efforts.
Any successful venture requires a strong vision and roadmap to get there. New Jersey Future believes that a state plan that prioritizes equity and resilience will make our state stronger and ready for the future.
This summary was written by Missy Rebovich from New Jersey Future.
Community leaders agree: Public art is an invaluable tool for thoughtful redevelopment
Caroline Ehrlich, Tom Goletz, Lauren Otis, and Elena Cromeyer work very different jobs, in different sized communities, with different constituents, but they all agree on one thing: public art can be an invaluable tool in successful redevelopment. The four panelists came together to share their thoughts as part of New Jersey Future’s 2020 Redevelopment Forum session entitled, Everyone’s a Critic: Public Art’s Role in Redevelopment. The panel identified public art as an important mechanism for growth and development, specifically enumerating positive effects on economic redevelopment, safety, and placemaking. The panelists took time to share their experiences, and to provide examples of public art projects and complementary art initiatives that contributed mightily to the public health, economic health, and vibrancy of the communities that they serve.
As Chief of Staff of Woodbridge Township, and Executive Director of the Woodbridge Township Redevelopment Agency, Caroline Ehrlich has firsthand experience with developing a thriving arts community. “The mayor was convinced that art would trigger economic development,” Ehrlich commented. She spoke about the importance of meticulous planning and creating an arts inventory and steering committee to foster a creative environment where artists would be comfortable. “We just started knocking on doors.” Knocking on doors led to the creation of the steering committee, and now Woodbridge is home to the Avenel Performing Arts Center, the AvenelMural Project, and many supporting businesses. “Now there are plenty of reasons why artists would want to live in Woodbridge,” Ehrlich proudly shared.
Tom Goletz, Vice President of Newark Downtown District, shared his experiences with the “Gateways to Newark” mural project, and how it involved artists from around the world, as well as the entire downtown community. The mural is located on an Amtrak wall along McCarter Highway, and features art pieces that pay homage to Newark’s history, present and future. It is the second longest mural in the country, and is about the length of 25 football fields. It was completed in 13 days, at night, and required working with many partners to achieve their goal of creating a healthier, safer, and more vibrant gateway to the city of Newark. Multi-stakeholder involvement was crucial to the project, and extended from the Mayor’s office down to the artists and community members. Goletz credits their curator and community ambassador program with fostering an inclusive environment and ensuring the overall success of the project.
Through the lens of an artist, Lauren Otis, Executive Director at Artworks, provided numerous examples of art installations that have greatly contributed to thriving communities throughout the world. “Public art will connect a community, create a community, and create a sense of place…it’s value is huge. Otis detailed works in various sizes, mediums, and even permanence all over the world. His examples made the point that art can work with any space and budget. “You don’t have to do something like a monolithic piece of art. You can have new art, and interchangeable art.” Lesser known mediums, such as light installations, can also be employed in a comprehensive redevelopment vision to solve real public safety and economic development issues. Otis discussed projects in Spartanburg South Carolina, San Jose California, Boston Massachusetts, Mobile Alabama, and Philadelphia Pennsylvania, which all provided a solution to the universal problem of dead zones, like underpasses, which can be dark, difficult, and scary.
Focusing specifically on redevelopment and problems related to public health, Elena Cromeyer stressed creative placemaking to make communities healthier and safer. “Placemaking can improve public health by building community, shifting behaviour, and providing public access to fresh food and greenery,” she stated. As Project Director for the non-profit Trenton Health Team, Cromeyer detailed local projects where art improves the lives of community members by tackling issues such as nicotine and tobacco use, childhood obesity, and violence. The rainbow crosswalk project on Warren Street in Trenton is an example of creative placemaking to beautify an unsafe and busy area that also promotes civic pride. “These projects are not without their challenges,” Cromeyer relayed. She also discussed important projects that have encountered hurdles due to public art not having a stronger position in today’s redevelopment infrastructure. Artwalk Trenton is a proposed project that has been halted for these reasons, and Cromeyer is concerned that a lack of public art policy is perpetuating a less safe and unhealthy environment for community members.
Through all of their presentations, the speakers agreed that thoughtful planning, inventory of resources, and a comprehensive vision of success are extremely important in employing public art as a redevelopment tool. Too often dismissed as an ancillary or “nice to have” addition to a redevelopment plan, public art should be a more important part of the overall redevelopment discussion. Universal issues such as public health and safety can be adequately addressed if public art is included as an available option in redevelopment infrastructure.
This summary was written by Bree Callahan from New Jersey Future.
State and local government leaders and the business community agree on the importance of economic incentive programs, but the awards should be deployed strategically, to incentivize certain types of behavior and in certain types of places.
That was the upshot of the panel discussion in a session entitled Getting Incentives Right: The Right Tools for the Right Job at New Jersey Future’s 2020 Redevelopment Forum.
The panel, moderated by Anne Babineau, Partner at Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, included New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan, Newark Alliance President and CEO Aisha Glover, and HHG Development Associates Principal David Henderson.
On the question of why New Jersey needs economic incentives at all, given its highly educated workforce, its proximity to major markets, and other characteristics that are naturally attractive to businesses, Sullivan summarized this macro perspective by first acknowledging, “you don’t need the world’s most generous incentive program when you’ve got the fundamental competitive advantages that New Jersey has.”
However, New Jersey’s positive statewide profile can obscure the challenges that certain kinds of projects can face in particular pockets of the state, much the same way that New Jersey’s status as one of the wealthiest states in the country (its median household income is second only to Maryland’s as of the 2018 American Community Survey) masks the fact that it contains some of the country’s poorest cities.
Economic incentives help get projects over the hump in areas with weak markets (low rents, high vacancy rates, high unemployment, etc.), or where the developer seeks to reuse an existing building or clean up a contaminated site – hurdles which might otherwise render the project unable to turn a profit. The incentives help close the financing “gap” between what commercial lenders are willing to lend and what it actually costs to get the project built.
Henderson used his firm’s redevelopment of the Roebling complex in Trenton as an example. It involves the adaptive reuse of multiple historic buildings (the complex is where the wire rope for the Golden Gate Bridge was manufactured, among other things) in a rising urban market. Henderson notes that those buildings have sat empty for many decades and would continue to do so without incentives from the state to help defray the costs of rehabilitating the buildings for new commercial and residential uses. Soft demand would have made it difficult to recoup the rehab costs via market-rate rents.
The panelists agreed that historic preservation was just one of several goals that economic incentives can help promote. Revitalization of promising urban downtowns was seen as a goal in itself, especially in light of growing demand for “live-work-play” environments. If residential and job growth is now trending toward compact, walkable areas, it is in the state’s interest to help ensure those areas are ready to absorb the growth. Glover noted that, in addition to being where the market now wants to be, urban areas are also where you get more bang for your state-investment buck. This is thanks to infrastructure already being in place, along with the economies of scale that allow that infrastructure to serve many more people per unit cost than is true in more spread-out suburban developments. Incentives help get the ball rolling, and then revitalization can build on itself to the point where incentives will no longer be needed, such as in parts of Jersey City and Hoboken.
Henderson observed that “state governments made huge investments in facilitating suburban growth in past decades, via the construction of roads and other infrastructure. It’s not too much to ask for the state to now make investments to help urban redevelopment happen.”
It’s not just the big cities that should be targeted for incentives, though. New Jersey has many long-dormant smaller cities and traditional suburban downtowns where it makes sense for new growth to be steered. Babineau cited Garwood as just one of many examples of such smaller downtowns. Panelists agreed that it makes sense for residential projects to be eligible for incentives in these places, since this is where today’s workforce wants to live; job growth won’t happen if businesses aren’t confident that their workers will be able to live nearby.
“We should be looking for ways to maximize the potential of our suburban downtowns, especially if they’re served by transit,” Glover said. On the topic of transit adjacency, Sullivan added that “If you have a surface parking lot sitting adjacent to a train station with service in and out of New York or Philadelphia, you’re out of your mind.” Transit towns should be taking advantage of the market by doing infill projects on surface parking lots within walking distance of stations.
This summary was written by Tim Evans from New Jersey Future.
As our climate changes and storms worsen, much of New Jersey’s infrastructure is at risk. New Jersey Future’s 2020 Redevelopment Forum’s afternoon breakout session Stronger than the Storm: Building the Infrastructure We Need for a Changing Climate examined ways in which communities can not only make transportation, energy, and water systems resilient, but also redesign them to take advantage of new technologies and changing community needs to build climate-ready and future-ready infrastructure. Session panelists included moderator Niek Veraart, Senior Vice President and National Practice Lead – Planning, for Michael Baker International, Inc.; Garlen Capita, Senior Associate/Urban Designer for WRT; Sean Moriarity, Esq., Chief Advisor for Regulatory Affairs for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; and Andrew Salkin, Founding Principal of Resilient Cities Catalyst.
Niek Veraart opened the session with a discussion on resilience and asset management, noting that a key aspect of resilience in relation to infrastructure is the financial risk to government agencies and asset owners. Veraart explained that risks can be turned into opportunities through careful asset management and scenario planning. For example, agencies and asset owners should have an asset management plan and should build resilience into the purpose and needs parts of infrastructure plans. Veraart provided examples of smart transit projects that have integrated resilience into planning, including the Norfolk Transit Corridor Project.
Andrew Salkin spoke about the importance of lasting change with regard to urban resilience, noting that “cities are a complex web of systems” and the “web” should be considered holistically in planning. According to Salkin, places that respond better to shocks like Superstorm Sandy are also places that respond better to everyday stresses. Beyond thinking about basic infrastructure investments, Salkin said cities should be considering the overlapping social, climate, economic, health, and leadership factors. Salkin also emphasized the need to have an “overarching vision” to ensure we are making current-day investments that align with our future goals and needs.
Sean Moriarity presented a regulatory update on current resilience planning by the State of New Jersey. Calling New Jersey “ground zero for climate change,” Moriarity explained that sea levels and heat levels are rising faster in New Jersey than in most of the country and that New Jersey’s sea level rise is twice the national average. On the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy last October, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 89, creating a statewide climate change resilience strategy. This past January, the governor signed EO 100: NJ PACT, which takes a number of steps to protect the state against climate threats. Moriarity provided a summary of both orders and spoke about short and long-term action plans as two-fold: mitigating and reducing emissions; and adapting and protecting assets.
Garlen Capita presented a descriptive overview of the Gateway Master Plan in the Tampa Bay area of Florida as an example of smart redesign incorporating climate change and the future needs of the community. Capita explained that the Gateway area is experiencing sea level rise issues like New Jersey, that it is almost 90 percent built out, and it is experiencing rapid growth and transit issues. The county is relying on redevelopment to ensure that the area can maintain its competitive advantage as an economic hub and regional job center. The Gateway Master Plan includes the redevelopment of existing business campuses less vulnerable to climate change into mixed use campuses with access to transit. Capita explained how municipalities in the region are working together on funding the project, which has included a large and robust community engagement process to earn public support.
New Jersey Future is working to make New Jersey communities strong, healthy, and resilient. From working to improve New Jersey’s outdated water infrastructure, to helping coastal towns with their resilience planning, to advocating for healthy walkable communities, we know the ability of our communities to adapt to climate change and changing needs depends on the decisions we make today.
This summary was written by Kelley Heck from Heck Public Affairs.
Planning for places and their people.
How can we plan smarter? New Jersey Future’s 2020 Redevelopment Forum included a morning break-out session titled Better Together: Place-Based Economic Development in Downtowns that explored ways in which redevelopment planning can be more successful and beneficial to communities and their residents. The session focused on the importance of jointly utilizing economic development analysis, placed-based planning, and community engagement for successful downtown revitalization. Panelists at the session included moderator Charles Heydt, Associate Director, Planning Serves for Dresdner Robin; Adenah Bayhoh, Founder and CEO of Adenah Bayoh and Companies; Mark Lohbauer, Principal of JGSC Group, LLC; Joseph Mele, Director of Civil Engineering for Dresdner Robin; and Patrick Terborg, Founder and Managing Partner of TD+ Partners.
Mark Lohbauer began the session with a short presentation on the importance of economic analysis in modern redevelopment projects, emphasizing that “to have good economic development, you really have to have economic planning.” Lohbauer noted that malls historically recognized the importance of economic planning, but that towns in New Jersey traditionally did not, and that the retail found in downtown commercial districts therefore generally happened by accident. Using the redevelopment of the former Maplewood postal office site as an example of ensuring “growth by choice, not chance,” Lohbauer described the economic planning process to determine how the site could be best utilized for the town. Planning involved researching the economics of the town, interviewing merchants, and surveying the community. Through this process, Maplewood learned there were empty nesters who wanted to downsize their homes and remain living in the town. They wanted walkability, with access to transit, retail businesses, and restaurants. The town planned accordingly and a successful mixed residential and retail building was born on the former postal office site.
Not only does economic analysis provide for more success in redevelopment planning, but Patrick Terborg warned about the real risks of not utilizing economic data. Far too often, Terborg explained, stereotypes, perceptions, and biases take the place of data in development decisions, with an emphasis on race. Using the example of the lack of affordable housing development in many white suburban areas, Terborg noted that a simple economic analysis could actually show it is needed. He explained that many projects developers consider difficult are not challenging when economic data is available. Terborg urged developers to “start thinking about the humans” living in a community, pointing out that many communities have mixed incomes and a variety of needs developers should be considering. Joseph Mele also touched upon the issue of developers being wary of projects they perceive to be difficult, saying planners should do as much as possible to “limit the known unknowns.” Mele described various design and technical elements that should be considered during the planning phase of a redevelopment project, so that developers are not dissuaded by unexpected problems or expenses that could potentially arise.
Adenah Bayoh spoke movingly in the session about her childhood as an African immigrant in Newark and her desire to give back to her beloved city. Bayoh echoed Terborg’s frustration that developers are not investing equitably in communities of color because of stereotypes and a lack of data. Like Terborg, Bayoh is trying to turn this around in New Jersey. She described one of her recent projects in Newark, a mixed-income housing development, containing both market rate and affordable rate housing in the same building. Naming development and housing as the “next civil rights agenda of our time,” Bayho warned “if we aren’t careful” in our planning “we will miss the mark.” Both Bayoh and Terborg spoke about the importance of designing for the needs of today’s communities, versus the way communities were designed decades ago. Bayoh emphasized the importance of community engagement in planning, stressing the need to know the community you are working with, and to build with them. As cities are rapidly being developed for millennials wanting walkable communities, Bayoh also stressed the need to be mindful about how we approach development, using redevelopment to make cities more equitable, not less so.
New Jersey Future is committed to smart redevelopment that puts places and their people first. From helping towns become more aging-friendly, to our dedication to community engagement, to our focus on equity and healthy sustainable communities, we know that redevelopment planning is so much more than just planning for a space. It’s about place and the people who will use it for generations, making it so very important to get it right.
This summary was written by Kelley Heck of Heck Public Affairs.
If “timing is everything” like some people say, the 2020 Redevelopment Forum happened at an opportune time for those of us who dwell on stormwater. Engineers, planners, developers, landscape architects, attorneys and municipal officials all had good reason to hang on to the words of presenters at the Forum session titled Stormwater 2020: Smooth Sailing or Choppy Waters?
Four days before the Forum, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) published long-awaited, important amendments to the state’s stormwater management rule (N.J.A.C. 7:8). The most notable change in the rule is a requirement that green infrastructure practices be used to meet the standards for water quality, quantity and recharge.
The new “green infrastructure rule,” as it’s being called, takes full effect on March 2, 2021. It will fundamentally change the way stormwater is managed in new development projects, and very likely is a step toward further rule amendments that will apply the green infrastructure requirement to redevelopment and to smaller sites than currently are covered by the stormwater rules.
Also on the minds of many in the room: stormwater utilities—specifically, the what, why, who and how. And the “how much”? What exactly is a stormwater utility? Why would such a thing be important to my town and its taxpayers? Who needs to be at the table and how do they evaluate costs and benefits? And how much of a fee are we talking about?
The common denominator of stormwater rule changes and stormwater utilities is the need to more effectively manage stormwater in our age of climate change. NJDEP’s Climate Data show a nearly 10% rise in annual precipitation over the past 100 years, and Climate Central data show that New Jersey, like other northeastern states, is experiencing far more heavy rain events. Stormwater management is getting harder and more complicated; much existing “gray infrastructure” is old and undersized.
Enter our panel of experts to illuminate the path forward!
With Erin Law, Esq. of McManimon, Scotland & Baumann moderating, panelists provided a trove of information and detail to help listeners understand how the changing stormwater landscape will play out. A key theme was: those who embrace the changes and opportunities can reap real benefits.
NJDEP Bureau Chief Gabriel Mahon described the new stormwater rule requirements, certain key updates to the New Jersey stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual, and the implementation timeframe. Engineer Eleni Giannikopoulos of Suburban Consulting Engineers explained stormwater utilities, including their widespread use across the country, the mechanics of how to create a utility, how fees are commonly established and calculated, and what the fee revenue can pay for.
Among the most visible and beneficial manifestations of rule changes and utilities implementation will be green infrastructure installations in both public and private sector projects. Like all infrastructure, green infrastructure must be properly designed, constructed, monitored, and maintained.
Communicating effectively about it is also imperative, because ideally, people should know and appreciate what they’re looking at when they see a rain garden, a tree trench, a green roof, wet pond, or infiltration basin.
Engineer Michele Adams of Meliora Design and landscape architect Tavis Dockwiller of Viridian Landscape Studio delivered excellent advice in a tag-team presentation about green infrastructure, including practical problem-solving advice, lessons learned, and tips for success:
One session cannot do justice to the scope and scale of New Jersey’s stormwater challenges. One uplifting takeaway from this Forum session, however, is that smart people are “on it.”
This summary was written by Louise Wilson from New Jersey Future.
New Jersey’s population is aging. As a significant portion of our population continues to approach age 65, how will this impact the needs of communities throughout New Jersey? A 2018 AARP survey shows that eight out of 10 adults age 50 and older want to stay where they live. Many people in New Jersey live in areas where they may have raised a family, have close ties to friends, neighbors, and medical professionals, feel a sense of social belonging, and have access to other essential resources. However, Emily Greenfield, associate professor at Rutgers University School of Social Work and moderator of the panel, explained that several communities throughout the state were developed with land-use patterns that do not support the needs of an aging population. How do we create communities that can, and how can we redevelop the built environment to create communities where people of all ages can thrive? First, we have to start with understanding what older populations value in the places they live.
For the most part, aging populations want to be in livable communities—walkable, transit-oriented, mixed-use neighborhoods that embody accessibility, convenience, and safety. AARP defines livable communities as having “affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community services, and adequate mobility options, which facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life.” These characteristics are in line with what populations of all ages value in the places they want to live. As the New Jersey state director of AARP, Stephanie Hunsinger understands that “people want to live in a community that they can call home. Age doesn’t define what we look for in our communities.”
To design and plan for livable communities, Mayann Bucci-Carter discussed how form-based code, a regulation that values physical form over separation of uses for land development, complements redevelopment projects. A professional planner with CME Associates, Bucci-Carter explained that form-based code implementation planning starts with a vision to create livable communities that are better for people of all ages. This allows a town to then implement redevelopment projects that support and contribute to that goal, rather than planning based on the factors of an already car-dependent community and hoping the rest follows. This results in a built environment with a strong sense of place at the core, which is specifically designed to be useful for all ages, Bucci-Carter explained. She also emphasized that redevelopment, with a heavy emphasis on community outreach and participation, is key with these projects, as it may not always apply to traditional zoning.
Mayor Ramon Hache of Ridgewood Village shared how his town wasn’t always known as one that was best suited for older populations. Mayor Hache is making it a priority to engage residents and create a community where everyone can create a community that everyone can remain living in throughout their lives; Ridgewood worked with New Jersey Future to complete a land use analysis for the town, where a steering committee is prioritizing the recommendations to develop an aging friendly implementation plan. For the first time in U.S. history, adults age 65 and older are projected to outnumber children under 18 around the year 2030. As this age demographic grows, the Ridgewood mayor understands that this valuable group can sometimes be overlooked, emphasizing, “we don’t want seniors to feel left behind.” By prioritizing creating a community where all its members can age in place and understanding the needs of those residents, a town can begin to implement redevelopment projects.
What do these projects look like? Metuchen Borough has gone through an almost 30-year redevelopment, leading it to be the vibrant downtown that it is today. A major focus of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance was to revitalize the downtown business district through strong partnerships with various local stakeholders and community members, said executive director Isaac Kremer. Kremer showed the audience photographs of the changes in Metuchen’s downtown that led to its reactivation: eye-catching storefronts and public art, attractive lights and signs, sidewalks with comfortable seating, and greenery that drew in residents and visitors to a walkable, active community. As evident in Metuchen, supporting populations of all ages by creating livable communities also has a great economic benefit. Property values increase as access to green spaces, walkability and compactness, housing diversity, and transportation options increase, Hunsinger explained. She also said that seniors’ spending patterns show that they contribute significantly to a local economy. Metuchen’s success stems from showing members of the community how their needs are valued by the way the environment is designed for everyone to use and appreciate.
Greenfield told the audience to center redevelopment projects around a vision of making communities better for all ages. Municipalities across New Jersey have started, or already have been, planning for people-focused, connected communities rather than car-dependent, inaccessible sprawl. By building communities where people can live, work, and play, we can build communities that people truly love. Designing communities for all ages isn’t only possible, it’s achievable. Where does your community stand?
This summary was written by Lauren Belsky from New Jersey Future.