New Jersey Future’s Peter Kasabach Provides Four Recommendations for “Smart Growth” in the Garden State

JERSEY CITY, NJ — “Smart Growth” is a term the organization New Jersey Future uses to denote development that incorporates the environment, equity and the economy to achieve a better triple-bottom line. At CapRE’s New Jersey Forecast in January, we welcomed Peter Kasabach, the Executive Director of New Jersey Future to take the floor and provide four key recommendations for the New Jersey Commercial Real Estate industry to move forward in a “smart” way.

Peter Kasabach, Executive Director, New Jersey Future

“How many of you have worked with New Jersey transit before? ” asked Kasabach to the gathering of a few hundred people. “Okay, a couple. Well. NJ Transit, five of six years ago, I would have said all that they do is run trains and busses. Now I can’t even say I’m sure they do that. But they really don’t do much more than that.”

However, according to Kasabach, there are transit agencies around the country that have taken that next step of going beyond just running their transit system, and recognized that their transit system forms a spine for real estate development. “And so they become active participants in the real estate development process, using their own assets, like parking lots, to be redeveloped into mixed use developments,” he explained.

“What we’re advocating for is that New Jersey Transit develop a transit-oriented real estate office within its shop so that it can interact with developer and municipal officials to advance these projects at a much faster pace,” advised Kasabach.

Next, Kasabach advocated for changing New Jersey’s economic development incentives to support start-ups and high-growth companies. “People are familiar with our economic development incentives packages that we have, such as Grow New Jersey. You’ve probably seen a lot about the Amazon deal,” he mused. “But those packages themselves have probably been targeted at the blue-chip firms that have been around for a long time, to try to retain those companies in New Jersey. What we’re advocating four is that for New Jersey to really grow and for our jobs to grow, we need to bring and attract those companies that are start-ups, that are high-growth companies, and that means re-aligning these incentive packages a little bit differently. So instead of looking at incentives just for the jobs and the tenants, it’s looking at giving the incentives to the developers who can create the space for these incubators and for these young companies and start-ups.”

The third recommendation by Kasabach was to make a stronger connection between housing and commercial development, to incentivize mixed-use and employer-assisted housing options. “Have any of you ever worked with a company that did provide housing assistance?” he asked. “You know, where it’s very common, is with universities. Princeton University has a program for professors where they will actually take a 40% equity position on a for-sale house, and the professor will take 60% position. They’re in the house together, and if the professor leaves, they sell, and the University gets their equity back and actually make quite a bit of money on it in Princeton. There’s that, where you could shar on the for-sale side, but there’s also the rental side, where a company can actually subsidize the rent for a person, so that the employee can live closer to where they work or have a stable place to live.”

Finally, Kasabach’s fourth recommendation was to coordinate departments with land-use authority. “There was something that we had in New Jersey called the State Plan, and it laid a road map out for New Jersey that said, these are the places that we want to grow, and these are the places that we want to preserve,” he recalled. “It generated a plan, and then all of the State Departments had to line up behind that plan so that their rules, regulations and new laws would support growth in these places. This is primarily urban and suburban areas where we wanted to see redevelopment. But that’s gone by the wayside. The new governor has said that he wants to bring that back.”

The best thing that this plan would do, said Kasabach, is to help to align all of these state departments behind a single vision. “It would stop the contradictory behaviors that we see when one agency is saying one thing and another department is saying something else and a third division is saying another,” he concluded.

Check out a previous CapRE Insider Report covering earlier remarks from Kasabach:

New Jersey Future is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes sensible growth, redevelopment and infrastructure investments to foster vibrant cities and towns, protect natural lands and waterways, enhance transportation choices, provide access to safe, affordable and aging-friendly neighborhoods and fuel a strong economy. Peter Kasabach is the Executive Director of New Jersey Future. He has been actively engaged in the areas of housing and sustainable development and community revitalization for the past 20 years. Before taking the helm of New Jersey Future in December 2007, he was chief of policy and community development for the New Jersey Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency.

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