Ted Zangari, co-chair of Sills Cummis & Gross P.C.’s real estate department, recently hosted members of the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition at the firm’s Newark office. — Photo by Jeffrey Vock for Real Estate NJ
By Joshua Burd
A year after a landmark effort to secure the Permit Extension Act of 2008 — a law that lengthened the life of development approvals statewide — a group of commercial real estate industry leaders saw another opportunity in Trenton.
New Jersey was preparing to swear in a new governor and Legislature. For the coalition, it was a chance to weigh in with sweeping recommendations that could help the state navigate what had become a crippling recession. The group of professionals and trade association leaders did exactly that in late 2009, providing a playbook to the incoming Chris Christie administration that led to bipartisan overhauls of state incentive programs and other key reforms.
Nearly a decade later, those stakeholders are preparing for another such opportunity.
Known as the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition, the group has unveiled a new set of recommendations for the incoming Phil Murphy administration and the new legislative session. The framework includes proposals to preserve and improve the state’s popular incentive programs, along with ideas to standardize local land use procedures, create new sites for industrial projects and build on efforts to streamline environmental regulations.
The topics were the focus of working groups and committees led by some of the industry’s most influential professionals. Many of the recommendations are aimed at improving or refining policies that have spurred economic development in recent years, while others seek to address glaring needs that have yet to be resolved after decades of advocacy.
In either case, the coalition believes the ideas are critical to ensuring that New Jersey’s economy can thrive in the years to come — with the commercial real estate sector leading the way.
“We’re excited about the possibilities. There is no one dramatic suggestion that we’re putting out this time,” said Ted Zangari, the founder of the coalition and co-chair of Sills Cummis & Gross P.C.’s real estate department. “But when you look at the recommendations collectively, they’re just as important to getting us to the next level.
“A lot of successes have been achieved and there’s much more work to do to keep us where we’re at and hopefully put us in an even better position.”
The coalition includes the state’s largest real estate trade associations — NAIOP New Jersey, the New Jersey Builders Association, the New Jersey Apartment Association — along with representatives from the retail sector, organized labor and other stakeholder groups. According to Anthony Pizzutillo, the head of Pizzutillo Public Affairs LLC, that critical mass has been essential in making sure its members can reach all levels of decision makers in Trenton.
“Even though we have a new administration coming on board in January, it is fundamentally important that we continue to educate and advance our agenda with the Legislature,” Pizzutillo said. “So it is imperative that what we put forth works in conjunction, I think in a very parallel way, with each one of our own personal agendas to enhance what we want to accomplish.
“And that is to create economic development in the state.”
In the stories that follow, Real Estate NJ will detail the recommendations of each committee.
Editor’s note: The new report by the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition will be the focus of an event this Tuesday, Dec. 5, by NAIOP New Jersey.