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Friday, August 3, 2007

Good first step

Earlier this week Trenton welcomed a new Foot Locker store into the downtown business district in a move that city officials heralded as an important step in the revitalization of downtown.

"It is significant to have Foot Locker," said Mayor Douglas H. Palmer in a statement in Friday's Times of Trenton. "It is an affirmation of their belief in our capital city."

City officials touted the opening of many new businesses downtown over the past year, including several retailers and successful restaurants, as a sign that things are slowly moving in the right direction.

But downtown Trenton has not yet shed its perception of being "empty".

Years ago, Trenton boasted one of the best shopping districts in the area, frequently being the destination for residents purchasing high-end products from world-famous retailers.

But nowadays downtown Trenton is better known as a nine-to-five weekday shopping destination, with little to no foot traffic on the weekends and very few shops open for business.

While Trenton city officials continue to point to small successes like Friday's opening of the Foot Locker, they need to realize that to take bigger steps in the right direction, the city will require better leadership and carefully-crafted policy.

This policy needs to address greater social realities and use the city's tools and assets to stimulate growth in the downtown district and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Details will follow....


Taneshia said...

Assuming the title of this blog entry is how you feel about the opening of Foot Locker, then I'm glad that you agree that is a good first step. We (TDA) are working extremely hard to promote downtown. What I hope that you understand is that the "small successs" you refer to are how things begin.

Revitalization is necessarily incremental and our work doesn't stop at an opening celebration.

I can describe the near exhaustive amount of TDA work that goes into supporting businesses like fine dining restaurant Settimo Cielo on Front Street which is succeeding in attracting suburbanites who realize that downtown is safe. How to reinforce a sense of security we've cultivated a partnership with the Trenton Police Department who have been extremely receptive to our request for visible police presence downtown. How the move of TDA's open air Capital City Market to State Street has suucceeded in drawing over 1,500 state workers outside during the day to enjoy live music while buying fresh produce, geting a hot lunch, and shopping hand crafted items. Not to mention Trenton2Nite our 2nd Fridays event of music, art, and dining.

Yes, the above is a commercial for TDA, but the point is that I listed just a sampling of the efforts underway. If you want to know more about the work we're doing being promotions and events, and in the territory of rehabilitation of properties and cultivation of downtown residential, I can share that with you too.

But again, nothing will happen overnight. Today I don't mind saying that I'm happy that so many new businesses, both national chains and entrepreneurs, are betting on the potential of downtown Trenton. But trust that TDA is far from resting on any laurels.

Greg Forester said...


Good job with all of your work that you have been doing for the downtown area and the city as a whole.

The addition of Foot Locker is, as I titled the entry, one of a few good first steps, and I do believe these all show the city moving in the right direction.

Where I was going with this entry, was to suggest that Trenton should borrow some of the strategies used by New Brunswick in the 1970s to revitalize their downtown area.

I didn't go into great detail because it would have probably required a few pages of blogging to spell out the methods used in New Brunswick.

That town's business district was much more rundown and sketchy than Trenton's has ever been, and now look at it.

Using New Brunswick Tomorrow and a slew of other programs, that city has experienced great revitalization.

Your organization is doing a great job, but I feel the city government needs to take greater steps to assist you and other stakeholders in getting downtown, and the rest of the city, to where it should be.

Taneshia said...

The Trenton Downtown Association is an independent 501c3, however it owes its existance to the City of Trenton administration. A bit over twenty years ago New Jersey passed legislation enabling municipalities to create Special Improvement Districts. Trenton created its SID and designated the Trenton Downtown Association as the managing organization of the SID.

Commercial property owners within the SID pay a special assessment. The city's tax assessor collects the special assessment and turns the funds over to TDA.

Because of this I consider TDA a public-private partnership. As its executive director I report to the TDA Board of Directors on which there is a Mayor's designee and a City Council designee. We also have a designee from the State of New Jersey. The rest of the board is made up of owners of property and businesses within the district. Our currect board president is Richard Hunter, owner of 20 year old Hunter Research.

By your own suggestion in citing a 1970s-created New Brunswick Tomorrow as an example the city of Trenton should follow, you make my point that revitalization requires both a long term view as well as public-private partnerships.

The bottom line is that I remain hopeful about my adopted home city's future. We have challenges for sure. But we also have an ideal location; solid, built infrastructure including transportation infrastructure; and incredible historical and cultural assets. I look forward to Trenton being another urban revitalization success story.

tmchale said...

New Brunswick revitalized its downtown by kicking out a bunch of the low income black and Latino residents and demolishing their homes for parking lots and garages. I don't think it's a very good model. Today it's got a bunch of upscale restaurants, but New Brunswick still lacks a good grocery store or much of use to the people who actually live there. Guess it depends on what you want out of a downtown...