“Given the master plan reexamination the city is undertaking, the Chamber felt it was a good time to use our resources in order to put together a work plan or blueprint which would identify the opportunities for the business community citywide that we feel need to be presented and discussed as part of the project,” said the chamber president Richard Mackiewicz.
The document, titled “Keeping Hoboken Vital: White Paper Outlining Issues and Opportunities for the Business Community,” makes nearly 20 recommendations for how to improve the overall business climate in Hoboken, streamline the city’s development approval and permitting process, rationalize parking strategies, boost tourism, improve the transportation system, and provide a more comprehensive and predictable framework for development.
The paper urges the city to consider the business community as a meaningful stakeholder.
“The white paper represents the culmination of a comprehensive process between professional planner Paul Grygiel, the Hoboken Chamber Board, chamber membership, as well as members of the business community,” said Mackiewicz. “Significant though it is, the white paper is just a first step in what the chamber hopes is a collaborative journey between the business community, elected and appointed officials, and the whole of Hoboken, leading to a vibrant, bustling and accommodating business climate. When Hoboken’s business community prospers and thrives, the whole of Hoboken shines brighter.”
The chamber realized the opportunities and the challenges of doing business in Hoboken and commissioned the white paper to study how to improve business conditions and make recommendations.
The chamber retained Phillips Preiss Grygiel of Hoboken last summer to prepare the white paper, which offers guidance to the community and elected officials on how the city’s code, regulations, and offices can be modernized to promote growth and be more easily navigated by the business community.
“What makes this different then our other communications with the city is the engagement of professionals schooled in matters such as these,” said Mackiewicz.
Paul Grygiel spearheaded the project for the firm. He specializes in comprehensive and neighborhood planning and zoning expert testimony. Grygiel gathered information for the paper through roundtable meetings with members of the chamber, census data, and an online survey distributed to the business community.
The white paper details 20 recommendations to be included in the master plan. They include creating a permanent government liaison to the business community, or an office of economic development that the community can consult with questions. Critics of the past administration said that City Hall sometimes made it difficult to open a small business in town or navigate zoning guidelines.
“A number of survey respondents mentioned a need for there to be a point of contact at City Hall,” said Mackiewicz. “This liaison in my view would at least act as a person to whom a business owner could go to and ask, ‘Where do I go for this?’ or ‘I’m having problems with the office.’ Currently business owners get frustrated as there is no centralized point of contact. We need to have this bureaucratic process streamlined.”
Thus, another recommendation is to have the development approval and permitting process streamlined.
The paper also recommends the city explore the creation of special improvement districts (SID) which would be funded by businesses with the district to assist in marketing, management, and upkeep for the business community.
“Its function can range from providing additional trash collection and security to creating special events to attract visitors to the area,” states the paper.
Jersey City has six SIDs.
Another recommendation includes the city providing technical assistance and grants to storefronts and building façade improvements that could help with the town’s historic preservation.
Another recommendation from the business community includes fixes to parking such as more signage so patrons know where there is public parking and to create a system that could alert drivers entering the city where to go for available spots.
The business community also feels the city’s zoning ordinance and other development regulations need to be updated and overhauled. The document states that a citywide rezoning hasn’t taken place in decade and “a complete overhaul of the Zoning Ordinance is needed to make it more user friendly and bring it up to current standards.”
This includes provisions for experiential retail, recreation, and entertainment, and ensuring that the definitions of retail and commercial uses are broad enough to allow for current trends and changes in the business environment.
Other recommendations include city branding, tourism promotion and marketing, a more balanced transportation system, finishing the repairs to Washington Street, more loading zones, and adjustments to Observer Highway to better assist all modes of transportation.
Mackiwicz said the Chamber’s next step is to see how the paper is received and hopefully hold events for the community to discuss recommendations.
Mackiewicz said that if nothing else, he hopes the paper will urge the city to be cooperative with the business community and that people will remember that the “quality of life in any community is dependent upon the vibrancy of its business community.”
The 22-page document Keeping Hoboken Vital is available online at https://tinyurl.com/KeepingHobokenVital. It will be distributed to members of the Chamber and local officials, and promoted through the Hoboken Chamber Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hobokenchamber.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.