According to Daniel Brenna, a founder and principal with CapitalReal Estate Group, there are a number of macro forces that indicatedense development is the way of the future. He cited a BrookingsInstitute study which found that the US is experiencing perhaps itsmost significant demographic, economic and social changes since theturn of the 20th century. These changes include an aging andgrowing population, increased urbanization, climate change andrising fuel costs. The country is on track to add 100 millioncitizens by 2035, which is likely to create a building boom.

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[IMGCAP(2)]"Half the stores and homes and buildings we'll needfor all these people haven't been built yet," said Brenna. It isestimated that the country will need about 60-million new housingunits by 2030. And due to the rising costs of fuel andenvironmental concerns, it's likely that people will increasinglylook for that housing to be located near transit hubs. Already,transit ridership has begun to spike and demand has risen forcompact housing near train stations.

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These forces are creating an ideal opportunity for the state topursue dense, mixed-use developments similar to the town squaresthat were built before post-war suburbanization. This type ofdevelopment "creates vibrant spaces, saves open space, generatesinvestment demand and supports an alternative transportationinfrastructure," according to Peter Kasabach, executive director ofNew Jersey Future. Towns that have already begun to pursue thistype of growth are reaping the benefits. Joel Schwartz, a principalwith Landmark Cos. LLC, described his company's redevelopment ofparts of downtown Metuchen and Rahway, which created walkablecommunities with a mix of retail and residential. James Maley, anattorney and the mayor of Collingswood, gave an overview of therevitalization of his town, which struggled after the 1960's.

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When Maley took office, the town was plagued by high vacancyrates, an overburdened school system and a large, deterioratingapartment complex known as the Parkview Apartments. The town'sgovernment, after failing to reach an agreement with Parkview'sowners to rehabilitate the site, threatened to use eminent domain.The 1,000-unit complex was eventually redeveloped and sold by thetown in 2006. The town received a return on their investment inParkview of $4 million, which is now used for PRIDE grants—grantsof $150 a year for four years for residents to make improvements totheir properties. Collingswood has experienced a major turnaroundsince the mid-90s, and Maley is now focused on further improvingthe town by creating mixed-use developments. One such development,the Lumber Yard project, features condos on top of restaurants andretail space. One unit of the project is open and fully occupied.Maley now hopes to encourage development near the town's Speedlinetrain station, which provides access to Philadelphia.

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Despite the successes of Collingswood and other similar towns,the state is still dragging its feet when it comes to activelyencouraging dense, mixed-use development. Kasabach points tomunicipalities' reluctance to change zoning laws to allow for densedevelopment rather than sprawl as a major obstacle. In order toovercome that, New Jersey Future has drafted legislation that, oncepassed, would offer incentives to municipalities to zone for andbuild dense developments near transit hubs. The Smart HousingIncentive Act will be up for review this fall.

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"The high price of gas and the economic slump can focusredevelopment and development where the infrastructure, jobs andtransportation exist," Kasabach said. "There may be 101 reasons whywe shouldn't do this, but the reasons we should do it are far moreimportant." His fellow panelists agreed.

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"The forces are all in place," said Brenna. "You're not going tostop population growth. The important thing is to get these peopleback into the cities."

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