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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-With the state’s reserve of available land for development quickly running out, developers and municipalities must look to redevelopment to facilitate the state’s growth in coming years. That was the theme of an event held here on Friday and sponsored by New Jersey Future, a non-profit, research and advocacy group that promotes sustainable growth, environmental preservation and neighborhood revitalization.

Peter Kasabach, the group’s executive director, told the crowd that there are 4.7 million acres of land in the state, and that one out of every three acres has been developed. Although that indicates two-thirds are ready for development, he pointed out that much of that land has been set aside, partly due to environmental constraints. “We need to grow, but don’t have much space to do it,” he said.

He noted that by 2050, there would be no more land left to develop in the state. In the past, the state’s development path tended toward suburban sprawl, not the redevelopment of older, developed towns. “It was easier to sprawl, but harder to redevelop,” he said. The right answer, he added, is “to direct growth to developed areas.”

In that vein, the one-day seminar provided a how-to guide for developers, municipal economic developer officials and other interested parties on how to run the gauntlet of the redevelopment process in the Garden State. One of the sessions focused on Revenue Allocation District Financing, or RAD, which is New Jersey’s version of TIFs, or tax increment financing.

Although the state has had a RAD regulation in place since 2003, only one project, an 800-acre development in Millville, has been completed under RAD guidelines. Donald Ayres, the director of economic development for Millville, called RAD “a great tool.” He said that tax dollars generated by the RAD project–the centerpiece of which is a 500,000-square-foot retail center anchored by Target–have funded neighborhood improvements in the surrounding area.

Therefore, a bill is floating around in the state senate now that would amend the current RAD regulations. Thomas Hastie Jr., an attorney with McManimon & Scotland LLC, said the new legislation would open up RAD to more areas and expand the revenue streams that could be used by a town to fund capital improvements needed for redevelopment. It would also streamline the approval process and clarify how the revenues generated by a RAD would be allocated among the local government, school district and other parties.

Patrick Henry, co-founder of the Atlantic Group, said that towns, developers and lenders need to be educated on the benefits of RAD financing. He pointed to successful TIF programs in Chicago and Minneapolis. In Minneapolis, for example, surplus TIF dollars were used to fund improvements that helped attract developers to a riverfront redevelopment project. Those improvements, in turn, helped spur $1.65 billion of private investment, he said. He conceded the process is complex, but “it can be cut through.”

Other topics during the event, which was held at the Hyatt Hotel and Conference Center, included reconnecting jobs with transit, undertaking redevelopment without eminent domain, financing redevelopment projects and incorporating green features in redevelopment endeavors.

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