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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-With developable land in short supply in New Jersey, redevelopment is becoming a necessity in many of the state’s towns and cities. Therefore, it was hardly surprising that the third annual New Jersey Future Redevelopment Forum attracted more than 500 attendees, ranging from developers to political figures to town planners, all of whom came to attend workshops that shared the benefits and challenges of transforming the old into something new and vibrant.

The program offered 22 workshops in four different tracks: urban policy planning and design; legal, technical and financial; and sustainability. The talks covered such subjects as reviving struggling malls, the benefits of light rail, soil cleanup standards, building mixed-income neighborhoods and eminent domain. Below is a sampling of some of the discussions:

Unleashing Light Rail’s Redevelopment Potential: moderator Vivian E. Baker, the assistant director of transit-friendly land use and development with NJ Transit led a panel that consisted of Bob Cotter, director of Jersey City’s division of city planning, Martin E. Robins, a senior fellow with Rutgers’ Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, Darlene A. Scocca, Burlington County’s economic development representative and John P. Sheridan Jr., President and CEO of Cooper Health System. Each discussed how beneficial light rail systems have been for encouraging growth and stimulating the economies of places like Jersey City, which has seen considerable investment around its light rail stations.

In Legal Update: Redevelopment Law and Eminent Domain, the panel, which included moderator Wayne Smith, the mayor of Irvington; Anne Babineau Esq. of Wilentz Goldman & Spitzer; Thomas Hastie Jr., an attorney with McManimon & Scotland; and Christopher Paladino, president of the New Brunswick development corporation explained how the courts have clarified the meaning of the “e” criteria in the Gallenthin case. They also described how judges in subsequent cases have ruled that additional planning analysis and documentation is required before an area can be determined to be in need of redevelopment. It is expected that this ruling will increase planning fees for the preparation of redevelopment studies.

Redevelopment Finance: Making Deals Work had moderator Timothy Lizura, SVP for business development with the New Jersey EDA discuss the new tools for financing redevelopment, such as Redevelopment Area Bonds, new market tax credits and urban plus loans with panelists Bruce Murray, senior manager of Real Estate Solutions Group and Michael Sullivan, a partner with Clarke Caton Hintz. The panelists also emphasized the necessity of hiring competent finance consultants before embarking on a development.

In Using Historical Preservation for Redevelopment, moderator Ron Emrich, executive director of Preservation New Jersey and panelists James Holmes Coston, councilman and pastor of the First Baptist Church of the City of Trenton; David Henderson, managing member of HHG Development Associates, LLC and Mary-Anna Holden, mayor of Madison borough shared their experiences trying to save and restore historic buildings and downtowns. Their focus was on redevelopment through preservation rather than tearing down old buildings to start a new development from scratch.

LEED ND: A New Framework for Sustainable Neighborhood Development, introduced the audience to a new LEED designation: neighborhood development, which calls for an entirely sustainable and environmentally responsible neighborhood rather than just a single building. Moderator Daniel Hernandez of Topology, LLC and panelists Frances E. Hoffman, director of redevelopment with Somerset Development and Pat Morrissy, founder and executive director of the non-profit Hands Inc. described projects they were involved in and the challenges they faced.

The sessions were punctuated with lunchtime remarks by commissioners Joseph V. Doria Jr. of the department of community affairs and Lisa. P. Jackson of the state’s department of environmental protection as well as a keynote address by Jonathan Rose, founder of Jonathan Rose Cos. LLC. Doria and Jackson both underlined the importance of teamwork and of having the state’s department’s work together to achieve sustainable development. Rose’s talk centered around making useful, sustainable spaces where people can lead happy, healthy lives. Many of his company’s projects are mixed-income developments, which some towns tend to be wary of.

“You have to remember, that the people living here are your parents, your children just out of school, it’s not just occupied by the ‘other’,” he reminded the crowd. Rose also pushed the idea of environmental responsibility–most of his developments employ green technology and techniques, and his residential projects provide open space for families and communities to gather.

Jackson ably summed up the purpose of the meeting in her remarks. “New Jersey is highly developed, so everything here is redevelopment,” Jackson said. “We have a canvas that needs to be shaped gently–people have to be able to afford to live here, we must adapt to climate change and we must build with environmental sustainability in mind.”

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