By Real Estate NJ
Commercial real estate leaders, policy experts and public officials gathered last month to tackle an all-too-familiar problem in New Jersey — rethinking the state’s suburban office parks and retail centers to position them for the economy of the future.
The event, hosted by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, drew an audience to the school’s New Brunswick campus for a forum that highlighted several opportunities and challenges. That raised a host of issues often cited when it comes to aging real estate, ranging from the controversial structure of home rule by municipalities to the demand for downtown, mixed-use environments by young workers.
“Suburban New Jersey once ruled completely, but that is no longer the case,” the event’s organizers wrote. “In the 21st century, unrelenting demographic, economic and technological change has disrupted key suburban ecosystems. As a result, many suburban office campuses and regional malls have lost their relevance and have become obsolete, while millennials, suffering suburban fatigue, have flocked to 24-7 live, work, play urban environments.
“This has become increasingly evident in the extended post–Great Recession period (2010 to 2018). The challenge for suburbia is to respond and adapt to these new realities.”
Below is sampling of comments from the speakers at the Sept. 20 event, which was titled “Future of the ‘Burbs: Retrofitting and Repositioning for the 21st Century.”
James W. Hughes, university professor and dean emeritus of the Bloustein School:
- “Urban-centric millennials rule. As a result, New Jersey faces a sprawl withdrawal.”
Ellen Dunham-Jones, professor of architecture and director of the MS in Urban Design,
School of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology:
- “Building on top of parking lots is a must-do as we need to re-green white elephants.”
- “Urbanism is the go-to amenity for office space.”
Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty:
- “There is no regional planning in New Jersey. They must encourage this as we need to step out and embrace the new world of planning “
Carl Goldberg, co-chair of the executive committee at the Rutgers Center for Real Estate:
- “The dictatorial nature of home rule is problematic to regional planning. It’s a shame a small kernel of opposition can stop a thoughtful project. Worse, it’s crippling New Jersey, resulting in severe tax consequences.”
- “The (League of Municipalities) should have the fiduciary responsibility to educate New Jersey municipalities about regional planning.”
Other panelists and speakers included Michael Darcy, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities; Charles Latini Jr., president of the American Planning Association in New Jersey; Marc H. Pfeiffer, senior policy fellow with the Bloustein school; and Raphael J. Caprio, university professor and director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center.