Conference Registrant Online Portal
The 2021 NJ Downtown Conference is over, but you can use this online portal to watch video of past sessions.
Click event name below to see options.
Watch Video from Tuesday, January 19th
The first day of the conference was dedicated to economic recovery, including a welcome from Governor Murphy, keynote address by Strong Town’s Chuck Mahorn, and a panel of economic development experts. The afternoon also included an opportunity to network with colleagues.
Welcome & Keynote
Robert Zuckerman, President of Downtown New Jersey, opened the conference with a year in review for the organization and downtown revitalization.
Governor Phil Murphy provided a short pre-recorded welcome address sharing the latest about NJ’s initiatives to support small business.
Charles Marohn, Founder and President of Strong Towns, kicked off the conference with a discussion built around The Local Leader’s Toolkit: A Strong Towns Response to the Pandemic.
Our cities and towns are supposed to be places of stability and prosperity. But the way our places have grown in recent decades has made them economically fragile (and too often culturally fragile as well). With the COVID-19 crisis, we’re experiencing what happens when that fragility is tested. Local leaders are on the front lines, facing head-on the challenges of our time. They are forced to innovate with systems naturally resistant to change. And to be successful, they must lead despite the anxiety and distrust that permeates modern discourse. During his keynote address, Charles Mahorn detailed the next steps local leaders must take to stabilize their communities and put them on a path to recovery.
A Different Kind of Economic Recovery?
2020 has been a year like no other. This panel provided attendees with high-level insight on the economic crisis and impacted sectors. Economic and industry experts discussed how we’ve bounced back after natural disasters and economic downturns in the past, and looked at the data and discussed future forecasts. Hear how this pandemic informs new strategies to build stronger, more diverse local economies to manage the impact of future disruptions.
- Mike Berne, President, MJB Consulting
- Richard Kasmin, Chief Economist, NJEDA
- Lyneir Richardson, Executive Director, CUEED at Rutgers Business School
- William M. Rodgers III, Ph.D., Chief Economist, Heldrich Center for Workforce Development
- Moderator: Christina Fuentes, Director of Small Business Services, NJEDA
Watch Video from Thursday, January 21st
The second day of the conference was all about place & space. The day’s sessions included experts ready to discuss downtown district placemaking and retail design strategies to make visitors feel welcome and safe. We also celebrated excellent placemaking inititives during a brief awards ceremony. The afternoon also included an opportunity to network with colleagues, and join a virtual tour and happy hour.
Placemaking for the Win
Thriving downtowns capitalize on their community assets to create intentional spaces that encourage visitors to not only shop and dine, but immerse themselves in the downtown experience. This creates a sense of place that attracts visitors, builds pride, and nurtures loyalty. Placemaking does not just happen, it is achieved through a multi-pronged approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces that is supported by substantial community collaboration. This panel brought together professionals actively engaged in placemaking who shared real life implementation strategies to take your downtown from ho-hum to wow.
- Suzanne Ishee, Director, NJIT Hub for Creative Placemaking
- Jaime Izurieta, Storefront Ninja, Storefront Mastery
- Isaac Kremer, Executive Director, Metuchen Downtown Association
- Moderator: Christine Newman, Director of Community Outreach and Volunteer Engagement, AARP New Jersey
Downtown New Jersey recognized excellent placemaking projects and initiatives intended to help small businesses survive and thrive during the shut down and capacity limitations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retail in the Changing Downtown Environment
The pandemic has accelerated a change in the downtown retail environment which was already underway. It has also provided retailers with an opportunity to reevaluate things that aren’t working and refocus their energy particularly toward multiple revenue streams. We are now forced to ask fundamental questions: What is the role of the physical store in this new landscape? Is the typical retail footprint/streetscape relationship still valid and if so what opportunities are available for it to be enhanced? How can community engagement be maintained/enhanced? What kind of demands are expected for smaller retail footprints and can a new mix of typologies be successfully accommodated within a typical ground floor retail format? How are Landlords considering modifications to leasing practices/portfolio strategies in response?
The panel was made up from academic professionals and industry thought leaders who brought their unique viewpoints to address these questions.
- Harriet Harriss, Dean of Architecture, Pratt
- Larisa Ortiz, Managing Director, Research + Analysis, StreetSense
- Lara Marrero, Retail Leader, Strategy Director, Principal, Gensler
- Darius Sollohub, Associate Professor, Hillier College of Arch & Design, NJIT
- Moderator: Jonathan Tyler, Senior Associate, Gensler
Virtual Tour of Newark & Happy Hour
Join us for a virtual tour of downtown Newark culminating in a cocktail mixing class featuring local spirits. Afterward, join your colleagues for an informal happy hour and discussion about NJ’s liquor license laws. Cocktail recipe>
Tour Guide (bio): Emily Manz, EMI Strategy
Watch Video - Friday, January 22nd
The final day of the conference includes experts discussing the current and future impact of disruption on downtown development, as well as a panel of Mayors sharing their thoughts about policy initiatives needed to foster recovery.
The pandemic is the latest in a series of major disruptors affecting the development pipeline. In the last two decades, NJ has had to adapt to the impacts of terrorism, climate change, and economic uncertainty. Disruption means that the development community has had to adapt to shutdowns, slowdowns, supply and labor shortages, and increased uncertainty. It has also had to rethink design to better accommodate safety concerns. And, there are always conflicting projections about how these shifts will shape where people will choose to live, how they will commute, and the future of the workplace. This panel brings together experts actively engaged in the development process to discuss adapting to disrupted development.
- Leslie A. Anderson, President and CEO, NJRA
- Meghan Jack, Township Administrator, Riverside Township
Paul Silverman, Principal, SILVERMAN
- Deb Tantleff, Principal, TANTUM Real Estate
- Moderator: Stephanie DiPetrillo, Senior Research Specialist, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center
Mayors' Round Table
The old troupe about the power of NJ’s municipalities under home rule is only partially true. Yes, municipalities have significant land use powers, which can be a benefit and a detriment to downtown revitalization, depending on the dynamics of a particular town. State and federal policy initiatives also have a significant impact on a downtown’s ability to thrive. COVID relief, recreational marijuana, liquor licenses, slow streets, and redevelopment incentives are just a few policy initiatives that come to mind. We’re bringing together a panel of NJ mayors to discuss both the actions they can take, as well as the policy initiatives they hope the state and federal government will implement to support our downtowns.
- Village President Sheena Collum, South Orange Village
- Mayor Betsy Driver, Flemington Borough
- Mayor Paul Kanitra, Point Pleasant Beach Borough
- Mayor Sean Spiller, Montclair Township
- Moderator, Robert Goldsmith, Partner, Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis, LLP