By Joshua Burd
State officials have launched a new website and interactive mapping tool aimed at helping local governments, investors and other stakeholders navigate the 169 census tracts in New Jersey that have been designated under the federal Opportunity Zone program.
Billing the website as a one-stop shop, Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced the debut of the tool at opportunityzones.nj.gov. Besides providing general information about the new program, the page will detail how the tracts overlap with special state designation areas and how stakeholders can leverage them with other state incentives to assemble projects.
The main feature is a new user-friendly interactive mapping tool, which the state is calling the NJ Opportunity Zone Navigator. The application displays where the zones are in the state’s 21 counties and their unique characteristics, allowing users to click through to see demographic profiles and more than 30 other layers of data down to individual parcels, in some cases.
For instance, users can view community assets in each zone such as train stations, bus terminals, airports, colleges and universities, power grids, ports and marinas, hospitals and parking areas, according to the state’s announcement.
“Supporting New Jersey’s Opportunity Zones is a vital component of our plan to build a stronger and fairer economy,” Murphy said. “I am thrilled to announce the launch of the NJ Opportunity Zone Navigator, a tool that truly leverages New Jersey’s innovation economy to encourage investment across our state.”
The navigator also has overlay options on the interactive map that allow users to view economic, local planning, environmental and workforce statistics as well as predominant land uses for each zone, the state said. The feature allows potential investors and stakeholders to view where the state has targeted its investments through special designations, such as Urban Enterprise Zones or transit villages.
“The Opportunity Zone Navigator gives invaluable insight to investors, businesses and local governments. The tool provides a quick view of the zones with overlapping layers of complexity,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver, who also serves as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “The one-stop shop and Navigator provide the missing link needed to connect municipalities with the right investors.
“At the end of the day, it’s about investing in our communities.”
Included as part of last year’s federal tax reform bill, the Opportunity Zone program seeks to drive long-term capital investments to low-income and distressed areas, in part by allowing investors to defer and potentially reduce taxes on capital gains from an unrelated investment. The 169 census tracts in New Jersey that qualify span 75 municipalities, many of which have caught the eyes of investors and developers that have launched qualified Opportunity Zone funds.
The new tool unveiled by state officials this week is a coordinated effort between the Office of the Governor, DCA, the Economic Development Authority, the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority and the New Jersey Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
“We are excited that New Jersey’s Opportunity Zone program aligns with this vision and holds the promise of driving significant investment in areas of the state that need it most,” said Tim Sullivan, the EDA’s chief executive. “The ‘One-Stop Shop’ and innovative Navigator tool will best position our state to take full advantage of this initiative and exemplify the Murphy administration’s commitment to making government work better for the benefit of our communities and residents.”