Conference Program

The 2021 New Jersey Downtown Conference offers three days of continiung education, celebration, and networking.

Approved for 7.25 AICP CM continuing education credits.

Tuesday, January 19th

The first day of the conference is 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 includes an opportunity to network with colleagues.

Welcome & Keynote (11:30AM - 12:45PM)

Robert Zuckerman, President of Downtown New Jersey, will open the conference with a year in review for the organization and downtown revitalization.

Governor Phil Murphy will provide 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, will kick 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 will detail the next steps local leaders must take to stabilize their communities and put them on a path to recovery.

Speaker bios>

Keynote Sponsor


Virtual Exhibit Hall & Networking (12:50PM - 1:35PM)

Chat with exhibitors, catch up with colleagues, and discuss hot topics with your peers.

A Different Kind of Economic Recovery? (1:45PM - 3:00PM)

2020 has been a year like no other. This panel will provide attendees with high-level insight on the economic crisis and impacted sectors. Economic and industry experts will discuss how we’ve bounced back after natural disasters and economic downturns in the past, and look at the data and discuss future forecasts. Hear how this pandemic informs new strategies to build stronger, more diverse local economies to manage the impact of future disruptions. 

Panelists (bios):

  • 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

Session Sponsor

Thursday, January 21st

The second day of the conference is all about place & space. The day’s sessions include experts ready to discuss downtown district placemaking and retail design strategies to make visitors feel welcome and safe. We will also celebrate excellent placemaking inititives during a brief awards ceremony. The afternoon also includes an opportunity to network with colleagues, and join a virtual tour and happy hour.

Placemaking for the Win (12:00PM - 1:15PM)

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 brings together professionals actively engaged in placemaking who will share real life implementation strategies to take your downtown from ho-hum to wow. 

Panelists (bios):

  • Isaac Kremer, Executive Director, Metuchen Downtown Association
  • Jaime Izurieta, Storefront Ninja, Storefront Mastery
  • Suzanne Ishee, Director, NJIT Hub for Creative Placemaking
  • Moderator: Christine Newman, Director of Community Outreach and Volunteer Engagement, AARP New Jersey

This is the second of a two-part placemaking series. In October, Isaac & Jaime shared advice about innovative “Winning Winter” placemaking strategies. Exemplary placemaking projects and initiatives will be highlighted as best practices during this session, and recognized in an awards ceremony after the session.

Session Sponsor

Placemaking Awards (1:20PM - 1:35PM)

Downtown New Jersey will recognize 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.

Session Sponsor

Virtual Exhibit Hall & Networking (1:35PM - 2:20PM)

Chat with exhibitors, catch up with colleagues, and discuss hot topics with your peers.

Retail in the Changing Downtown Environment (2:30PM - 3:45PM)

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 is made up from academic professionals and industry thought leaders who will bring their unique viewpoints to address these questions.

Panelists (bios):

  • Harriet Harris, 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 & Happy Hour (4:00PM - 5:15PM)

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

Session Sponsor

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.

Disrupted Development (12:00PM - 1:15PM)

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.

Panelists (bios):

  • Leslie A. Anderson, President and CEO, NJRA
  • Meghan Jack, Township Administrator, Riverside Township
  • Paul Silverman, Principal, SILVERMAN
  • Deb Tantleff, Founding Principal, TANTUM Real Estate
  • Moderator: Stephanie DiPetrillo, Senior Research Specialist, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center


Session Sponsor

Mayors' Round Table (1:30PM - 2:45PM)

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.

Panelists (bios):

  • 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

Session Sponsor

Thank you to the conference
Title & Tech Sponsors