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Forum Feature: Giving Office Parks a New Lease on Life

March 20th, 2014 by New Jersey Future staff


Our friends at NJ Spotlight were one of the media sponsors at our annual Redevelopment Forum, and attended the session on re-imagining the suburbs. Here’s their report.

Panelists at the Redevelopment Forum session on re-imagining the suburbs.

Panelists at the Redevelopment Forum session on re-imagining the suburbs.

Holmdel’s iconic Bell Labs Research complex — the site of at least one Nobel prize discovery — now has another distinction, one that residents and elected officials would sooner do without.

The circa 1962 complex is the largest empty office building in the nation.

Architecturally significant for its mirrored glass façade, the 2 million-square-foot facility has sat abandoned on its 473-acre campus since 2006.

The empty building exemplifies the deep trouble that New Jersey’s office parks and shopping centers face, victims of the recent trend that favors reinvesting in urban centers over continuing suburban and exurban sprawl — a trend taking hold across the state and the country.

This urban migration compounds the problem of an existing glut of retail space that real estate analyst Jeff Otteau predicts will meet the state’s needs for another 17 years. He also cites a surfeit of office space that won’t be used up until 2043. And because the state’s suburban corporate and commercial construction boomed more than 20 years ago, the New Jersey League of Municipalities Educational Foundation calls the current building stock not just aging but obsolete.

Read the full article on NJ Spotlight.

Forum Feature: What’s Plan B? Energy Resiliency in Redevelopment

March 20th, 2014 by Leah Yasenchak

Woodbridge Township Chief of Staff Caroline Ehrlich addresses a Redevelopment Forum session.

Woodbridge Township Chief of Staff Caroline Ehrlich addresses a Redevelopment Forum session.

“If UPS tells Amazon that their guys are on strike, you’d better believe that Amazon has a back-up plan – they are going to call Fed Ex. If PSE&G calls us and tells us they can’t get power to us, we’d better have a back-up plan.” These were the cautionary words of Caroline Ehrlich, chief of staff of Woodbridge Township, at a session on energy resiliency at New Jersey Future’s Redevelopment Forum

Energy resiliency – power generation and distribution that is less prone to failure; allows a basic supply to critical facilities in the event of a failure; and offers faster recovery of the overall system – was the focus of this session, and panelists discussed various ways of ensuring that power is available during extreme weather or other emergencies. Solutions of two different types were discussed – supply alternatives and asset isolation and protection. Read the rest of this entry »

Forum Feature: Does Green Infrastructure Create Real Estate Value?

March 20th, 2014 by Steve Nelson

Matt Testa from Bijou Properties in Hoboken speaking at the Redevelopment Forum

Matt Testa from Bijou Properties in Hoboken speaking at the Redevelopment Forum

As the real estate market stages a slow but steady comeback from the Great Recession, and as commercial property owners consider new investments and re-investments in buildings and land, the use of green infrastructure (rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavement, additional trees and planted roofs) is increasingly being considered. But does all this green infrastructure create additional real estate value?

This question was discussed in a session at this year’s Redevelopment Forum by panelists representing real estate developers, local government and non-profits. As moderator Sen. Robert Smith (D-17th Legislative District) noted at the outset, “There is an opportunity for better ideas,” and the three panelists offered several examples of how green infrastructure is indeed a better idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Draft 2014 New Jersey Hazard Mitigation Plan Available for Comment

March 11th, 2014 by Chris Sturm


State sets new precedent in allowing public comment on a state HMP

Mantoloking SandyUPDATE: The public comment period opened March 11, but the state apparently had already submitted the plan by then. Please see the full story here.

New Jerseyans concerned about the state’s ability to withstand future storms now have the opportunity to weigh in on a document that could lay the groundwork for a more resilient future. Today, New Jersey’s Office of Emergency Management posted on its website the draft 2014 New Jersey Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP). Comments will be accepted for a one-month period ending April 11. The state’s press release noted that this is the first time the public will have the opportunity to comment on the plan before it is submitted to FEMA for approval.   Read the rest of this entry »

NRDC: Risk Assessment Must Be Part of New Jersey’s Sandy Recovery Programs

March 7th, 2014 by New Jersey Future staff


The National Resources Defense Council was one of the co-signers to our official comments on the state’s draft Action Plan for the second round of federal Sandy recovery aid. In this article, cross-posted from their site, author Ben Chou explains why a robust risk assessment is so important to judicious allocation of these funds.

Damaged homes along the Jersey Shore (Courtesy of Greg Thompson, USFWS)

Damaged homes along the Jersey Shore (Courtesy of Greg Thompson, USFWS)

Extreme weather events in recent years have made states throughout the country rethink how investments in communities can make them more resilient to future storms and other types of natural disasters.  There is no clearer example of this than in New York and New Jersey, the two states most devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.  Although it has been well over a year since this disaster struck, communities in both states are still in the process of recovering and rebuilding.  And the roughly $60 billion in federal disaster relief appropriated after Sandy has been instrumental in this effort.

As a condition of receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), New York and New Jersey are required to develop an action plan for how they plan to use these funds.  They are also required to formally amend the plan every time they propose a major change.  My colleague, Theo Spencer, provided testimony this week on New York’s plan for using HUD funding.  And this week we also signed on to a letter from New Jersey Future, which includes recommendations for how New Jersey should utilize its next round of HUD funding.

Read the full article on NRDC’s website. 

Advocates Call for Valid Risk Assessment, Mitigation Planning in State’s Draft Post-Sandy Action Plan

March 5th, 2014 by Chris Sturm

Rebuilding Without Forward-Focused Analysis Wastes Taxpayer Funds

Mantoloking Sandy

New Jersey Future today joined groups of planning and policy organizations in submitting two sets of comments in response to New Jersey’s Draft Sandy Recovery Action Plan, which, if approved, will govern the disbursement of the next $1.46 billion in federal Sandy recovery funds.

The first set of comments addresses two issues: 1) the need for municipalities to conduct robust risk assessments to identify vulnerable areas and assets, and 2) the imperative for a larger investment of funds in planning to provide affected municipalities with the capacity to develop long-term recovery plans that do as much as possible to keep residents and property safe from future storms. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Shored Up’: An Important Primer on Complex Coastal Development Issues

February 25th, 2014 by Steve Nelson

Image courtesy of Shored Up

Image courtesy of Shored Up

What do we do about our coastal communities that lie in harm’s way (on an increasingly frequent basis) if our present approach isn’t sustainable? That is the essential question asked by the new documentary film Shored Up, screened in New Brunswick on Feb. 24, as it examines the situation along the Jersey Shore and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Interviewing scientists, elected officials, residents, environmentalists and others, filmmaker Ben Kalina explores the conundrum that we face as sea levels rise even as along our coast homes and businesses are being rebuilt and new ones are being constructed. Read the rest of this entry »

New York State Announces Major Investment in Post-Sandy Community Planning and Implementation

February 20th, 2014 by Chris Sturm


New Jersey Municipalities Have Access to Far Fewer Resources

Sandy hearings The State of New York recently released its sixth Sandy Action Plan Amendment that describes how it will spend the nearly $2.1 billion second round of federal CDBG-DR funding. In earlier amendments, the state dedicated $32 million to allow 124 communities affected by Sandy and other recent hurricanes to engage in comprehensive planning for a more resilient future through the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program. The communities received technical assistance tools, including maps showing areas that would become vulnerable to storm damage through the coming century as sea level rises, as well as professional planning consultant services and a planning framework within which to develop reconstruction plans. New York’s most recent Action Plan Amendment dedicates over $650 million for implementation of resiliency projects in the reconstruction plans. Read the rest of this entry »

Report: Many Older New Jerseyans Don’t Live in Aging-Friendly Places

February 18th, 2014 by Elaine Clisham

Places To Age

Places To Age

A new report released by New Jersey Future identifies a significant mismatch in New Jersey between where large numbers of older residents live and which municipalities are most prepared, from a land-use perspective, to accommodate them.  Read the rest of this entry »

New Jersey Must Count the True Costs of Preparing for Sea-Level Rise

February 14th, 2014 by Peter Kasabach

Fort Lauderdale. Photo source: Milei.vencel via wikimediacommons

Fort Lauderdale. Photo source: Milei.vencel via wikimediacommons

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is a city of 171,000 people.  If it were in New Jersey, it would be the third largest city behind Newark and Jersey City.  Fort Lauderdale, as well as other cities and towns in Florida, has had to deal with the reality of rising sea levels sooner than those of us in New Jersey.  What they are finding is that it is enormously expensive to try and stay one step ahead of Mother Nature.  Fort Lauderdale’s latest efforts will cost upwards of $1 billion, or about $6,000 for every resident (not taxpayer) living there. 

In densely populated areas, this might make sense in order to maintain cities for another generation or two.  But does this kind of investment make sense in less densely populated communities that may require the same level of protection at similar costs?  It’s time that we pay attention to the science of sea level rise, assess communities’ vulnerabilities accurately and make smart future-oriented decisions about infrastructure investments and land-use decisions.

If climate change continues to be ignored and sea levels rise according to even the most conservative trends and predictions, the cost to keep the ocean out will be exponentially higher than what Fort Lauderdale is facing today, and at some point it may no longer be technically feasible.

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