Monday, March 17, 2014

Congrats to NJ Future on great Redevelopment Forum

New Jersey Future’s annual Redevelopment Forum has become a fixture on the state’s calendar for all planners, developers, government officials, and others in the development community.  The 2014 event, just held in New Brunswick, was up to its usual high standards.
At the plenary session, conference goers heard redevelopment success stories from Providence, Cincinnati, and Detroit.  Yes, Detroit!  In the absence of any effective city government – and despite an unhelpful state government – Midtown Detroit, Inc. (Susan Mosey) has harnessed corporate and philanthropic support and made real progress on the ground.  Meanwhile, 3CDC (Stephen Leeper) has led a dramatic refit of Fountain Square and big improvements in the key Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, while the Providence Foundation (Daniel Baudouin) has spearheaded a major turnaround in that city.  Providence – once considered a real urban backwater – has seen a dramatic revitalization, symbolized by its signature Water Fire.  The Providence revival has been greatly helped by a major highway project: replacing a deteriorating urban freeway (I-195) with a segment on a new and better alignment, freeing up valuable redevelopment space downtown.
These cities can definitely share some success stories, but what are they missing?  Modern transit systems.  Seems to me that that is the next big step.
In the other plenary session, Seth Pinsky, former senior economic development staffer for Mayor Bloomberg, talked about some of the reasons for New York City’s recent economic and quality of life successes.  Key takeaway: NYC concentrated less on tax incentives to draw new private-sector investment and more on strategic fundamentals, including workforce development and infrastructure improvement.  New term (at least for me): “magnetic infrastructure of amenities,” e.g. the High Line.
There were also more than a dozen panel sessions, which I won’t attempt to summarize (NJ Future should post the slides on their website soon). 

Congrats to New Jersey Future on a job well done!

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