Tag: New Jersey

A closer look at “Measuring Sprawl”: Street connectivity in Trenton, NJ

trenton-njThe Trenton, NJ MSA has a strong legacy of transportation investment. Photo via Flickr.

Trenton, NJ, received high marks for compactness and connectivity in our recent report, Measuring Sprawl 2014, and stood out as number one overall in street accessibility, one of four key factors examined in the report. As Measuring Sprawl 2014 explores, a high rating for compactness and connectivity correlates to a rise in several quality of life factors, including greater economic mobility, lower combined spending on housing and transportation costs and greater options for the type of transportation to take.

How did Trenton build and sustain its accomplishments in street accessibility? And how can other cities learn from Trenton’s successes?

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Senator Frank Lautenberg’s legacy of support for America’s towns and cities

Senator Frank Lautenberg
Senator Frank Lautenberg (center) with supporters and colleagues in Paterson, NJ in 2008. Photo by Tony Fischer via Flickr.

Senator Frank Lautenberg led on an incredible range of issues during his five terms in the Senate. Creating stronger towns and cities—in New Jersey and across the country—was just one of them.

Transportation was a touchstone issue for Lautenberg during his time in office. As chair of the Surface Transportation, Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, & Security Subcommittee, Lautenberg championed passenger and high-speed rail service, especially for intercity travel and urban transit. One such project was New Jersey’s Hudson Bergen Light Rail line, which has brought commercial and residential development to the Hudson River waterfront and helped to improve the area’s neighborhoods. He worked to expand Amtrak and NJ Transit service, and helped secure funding to create NJ Transit’s Secaucus station, which now bears his name.

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Partnership in the News: Bergen County, NJ wants transportation choices, less traffic, more walking and biking

Together North Jersey

At a recent public workshop, residents of Bergen County noted that sitting in traffic, few transportation choices, and the lack of affordable housing are things they’d like to see changed.

Together North Jersey, a partnership between 60 local governments, public agencies, non-profits, and others, held the workshop to begin to find out what residents of the 13-county region like about where they live and what they would change. Eventually that input will be turned into a development plan to deal with uneven job growth, high taxes, and an aging population among other regional concerns.

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What the BUILD Act could build: Harrison Commons in New Jersey


Harrison Commons in Harrison, NJ.

The redevelopment of Harrison, NJ’s waterfront from abandoned industrial buildings into a viable mixed-use development seemed inconceivable only a few years ago.

Strategically located along several rail lines, on the Passaic River and only a few miles from New York City, Harrison once boomed with factories and manufacturing in the first half of the 20th century. In 1912, President William Howard Taft nicknamed Harrison the “Beehive of Industry.”

The town still keeps Taft’s catchphrase as it’s motto, but much of the manufacturers that once called Harrison home have long since closed their doors, leaving behind abandoned factories and large swaths of vacant – and in some places contaminated, land.

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Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh on transit-oriented development in West Windsor, NJ

The small town of West Windsor, NJ is home to one of the busiest commuter rail stations in the country, and the town has plans to put that station at the heart of a new walkable neighborhood.

West Windsor is one of New Jersey’s 26 state-designated transit villages, meaning the town has shown a commitment to revitalizing and redeveloping the area around its transit stations into walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods with a strong residential component.

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Congress passes Sandy recovery bill, includes funding for critical HUD program


Aerial photos of New Jersey coastline in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Photo by DVIDSHUB via Flickr.

Three months after Superstorm Sandy crippled coastal communities along the East Coast, Congress passed a $50.5 billion package on Monday to aid victims of the storm and accelerate re-building efforts.

The largest portion of the spending bill includes $16 billion for the Housing and Urban Development Department’s Community Development Block Grants program (CDBG). Of that, about $12.1 billion will be shared among communities directly affected by Sandy as well as those from other federally declared disasters in 2011-2013.

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Helping Byram, NJ turn its Village Center vision into reality


An architect’s rendering of proposed changes to Byram, NJ’s main boulevard. Photo via New Jersey Highlands Council.

Byram is a bucolic township of 9,000 people located amidst the lakes and hills of northern New Jersey 50 miles from New York City and 25 miles from the Pennsylvania border. Having embraced the land preservation goals of New Jersey Highlands Regional Master Plan, Byram has now set its sites on creating its first-ever Village Center on a 60-acre property – and some adjacent parcels – along New Jersey Highway 206, the town’s “Main Street.”

Byram’s vision for a Village Center has won wide acclaim, including a smart growth award from New Jersey Future, the state’s leading smart growth group and a coalition partner of Smart Growth America. But how to transform a vision into a reality – especially in a down economy and a slow real estate market?

Last week, Smart Growth America led a two-day workshop to help civic and community leaders in Byram grapple with this question. Participants included Mayor James Oscovitch, Town Manager Joseph Sabatini, other members of the Town Council and the Town Planning Board, business owners, property owners, and many interested Byram residents.

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In New Brunswick, one development tackles multiple community needs

When Smart Growth America’s coalition partner New Jersey Future announced its 2012 Smart Growth Award winners in April, it was no surprise that New Brunswick’s Gateway Transit Village received the award for Transit-Oriented Development Partnership.

The Gateway Transit Village is a new development in downtown New Brunswick that includes parking, retail, office and residential space. Located across from the train station, the development encourages transit ridership and makes it easier for the building’s residents to get around without using a car.

“The Gateway project stood out because it satisfies so many of the requirements for a smart growth project,” says Peter Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future. “Gateway provides direct access to transit for both commuters and students at neighboring Rutgers University, and serves multiple purposes with retail, parking and residential space for both renting and ownership.”

“In this particular case, Gateway was able to accommodate the broadest range of interested parties with differing needs,” Kasabach says. “The project was successful because it took advantage of community partnerships and creative financing to meet these needs.”

The New Brunswick Development Corporation (Devco), a nonprofit real estate company, helped get this complex project off the ground. Tasked with revitalizing New Brunswick’s transit corridor, Devco saw a specific under-utilized piece of land directly next to the train station as a key property for redevelopment.

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Many commuters are trading a backyard for a train station

LOCUS President Chris Leinberger recently sat down with the Wall Street Journal to discuss the rising popularity of living near public transit.

Suburban Swap: Trading a Backyard for a Train Station [Wall Street Journal – May 1, 2012]

Tom and Pat Kelly spent 22 years living what many people consider the American dream: They owned a four-bedroom home with a pool and a big yard in Turnersville, N.J. They traded that in to live near a train station.

With two of their three children living on their own, the couple no longer wanted to spend time raking leaves, shoveling snow and doing other maintenance their large home required. So they moved to LumberYard, a mixed-use condominium development near their son’s and daughter’s homes and within walking distance of the local train station.

Now, instead of spending two or more hours commuting daily in his red Volkswagen Beetle, Mr. Kelly, 56, hops on the Patco high-speed train line and gets to his Philadelphia law-firm job across the Delaware River in about a half-hour. “It’s just a much more enjoyable life,” he says.

LumberYard is a transit-oriented development, or TOD, one of a growing number of mixed-use developments that combine town houses or condominiums with retail shops, hotels and other businesses—all perched near a train station.

Transit oriented development—a term some credit to urban planner Peter Calthorpe—started to take off in the mid-1990s. But, the financial crisis slowed TOD projects along with other residential developments, says Christopher Leinberger, a Washington, D.C. urban land-use strategist and partner in developer Arcadia Land Co. Now, developers say they are dusting off old plans and starting new ones.

Read more: Suburban Swap: Trading a Backyard for a Train Station [Wall Street Journal – May 1, 2012]

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LOCUS President Chris Leinberger delivers keynote address at New Jersey Redevelopment Forum


A NJ Transit light rail train passes along Essex Street in Bayonne, NJ. Photo by Flickr user Flodigrip’s world.

In March, LOCUS President Chris Leinberger delivered the keynote address at the New Jersey Redevelopment Forum, an event hosted by Smart Growth America’s coalition partner New Jersey Future. The following is crossposted from New Jersey Future’s blog Future Facts.

Many in the luncheon crowd at New Jersey Future’s seventh-annual Redevelopment Forum were still digesting their cold cuts and salads when keynote speaker Leinberger stepped to the microphone and delivered an opening shot to their state’s midsection:

“New Jersey is the poster child for sprawl.”

A renowned urbanist, president of LOCUS; Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, Leinberger did not mince words when he described how New Jersey, like the rest of America, latched onto a drivable suburban lifestyle in the 1950s—and didn’t let go for the next half-century.

“Transportation drives development,” he noted. Modifying a well-known quote from Winston Churchill (“First we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us”), he said, “We first build our transportation system, and then it molds our metro regions.” Investment in highways leads to drivable suburban development, he explained, while investment in rail, bus, bike lanes and sidewalks leads to walkable urban development.

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