Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


New Jersey Future Blogrss

Does the Retail Apocalypse Mean the End of Downtowns?

February 17th, 2020 by

Apocalyptic CityFor the first time in the United States, consumers spent more at restaurants and bars than grocery stores. This is just one of many statistics that drives home the point that where and how people spend their money is changing. And these consumer habits are changing the look and viability of our state’s downtowns.
New Jersey Future and JGSC Group presented Does the Retail Apocalypse Mean the End of Downtowns? at the annual American Planning Association–New Jersey conference held on January 23rd in New Brunswick. The answer to that apocalyptic question was a resounding “maybe”.
Town leaders that are proactive and see the future of their downtowns as compact, walkable, thriving centers will gain the competitive advantage. These same town leaders are normally presented with one of three avenues for how to make this happen:

  • Economic development study. This type of study analyzes demographic and market data and lets you know what commercial opportunities might exist to attract growth. It generally doesn’t look at your assets, housing, your vision or how you might accomplish this task.
  • Land-use planning study. A land-use planning study helps you understand the built environment and changing demographics and desires, especially for compact, walkable places. It doesn’t look beyond the physical assets at the realistic market opportunities, oftentimes assuming demand.
  • Politically driven study based on local desires. This locally-driven process builds support from the community for what it wants to see and therefore what can be politically supported. It doesn’t provide a reality check based on demographic, market or practical realities.

Too often, towns pursue one of these approaches and are typically disappointed when the individual study does not lead to implementation steps or real change.
The panel of Peter Kasabach (New Jersey Future), Joe Getz (JGSC) and Mark Lohbauer (JGSC) looked at these different approaches and presented an integrated model that combines elements of all three of these methodologies. A convincing case was made that when combined, the result is a visionary plan, grounded in reality that is implementable. New Jersey Future and JGSC are currently working together to advance this approach in the town of Bloomingdale.


Integrated Approach Diagram

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

© New Jersey Future, 16 W. Lafayette St. • Trenton, NJ 08608 • Phone: 609-393-0008 • Fax: 609-360-8478

Are you receiving our email newsletter?

  • Latest news on land-use policy issues
  • Research and reports
  • Upcoming events
  • Monthly

Click to subscribe