At one of the breakout sessions at this year’s Redevelopment Forum, Joe Getz from the downtown economic-consulting organization JGSC Group gave a clinic on the importance of using good data to make decisions on downtown redevelopment projects. The familiar developer refrain “We’ve done this many times,” he cautioned, “is not data.”
There are lots of kinds of data besides demographic and Census data, he said, including interviews, surveys, and economic analysis. Such data tell us who will buy the housing we plan to build; who will shop in the stores; who will dine in the restaurants and what kind of dining they like. Census data doesn’t include any of those things, but they’re crucial to putting together redevelopment plans that will work.
Downtowns across New Jersey are facing a unique set of challenges. While many towns are seeing a rise in the number of people who want to live in a walkable, mixed-use town center, they are also facing the challenges of keeping their downtowns vibrant and full of retail tenants when New Jerseyans increasingly do most of their shopping on laptops and not in stores.
The Changing Downtown Retail Paradigm, a panel discussion led by Debra Tantleff, the founding principal of TANTUM Real Estate, focused on the trends that were bringing more people downtown and the hindrances that developers, mayors, and others were encountering in trying to capitalize on these trends.