Redevelopment experts who spoke at the NJ Future Redevelopment Forum say new tools are needed to determine how to prioritize infrastructure investments in cities, towns, and regions so that businesses and jobs can grow.
Communities repositioning aging downtown business districts to attract commercial developers, tenants, and new residents will need strong leadership capable of persuading constituents to embrace emerging development models, say morning plenary panelists at NJ Future’s 13th annual Redevelopment Conference, held Friday in New Brunswick, NJ.
“You need to engage your residents and your constituents, absolutely,” says Eugene R. Diaz, founder, and principal of Prism Capital Partners, who participated in the panel, “Making Every Place A Great Place to Live and Work.” “But human nature being what it is, people don’t like change, and they don’t understand change. And it takes powerful, strong leadership to tell them, ‘You’re wrong. Don’t fight this. This is where the world is going. This is what needs to happen.’”
Diaz praised the work of fellow panelist André Sayegh, mayor of Paterson, NJ, to bring smart growth to Paterson, but also noted that New Jersey’s strong home-rule government makes development difficult as local concerns over redevelopment are relitigated and revived virtually every time a project is discussed.
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