Effects of development
It is impossible to look at the year in business without taking into account the effect that new development and development plans have had and will continue to have on local businesses. The county's waterfront cities - Hoboken, Jersey City, West New York, Guttenberg and Weehawken - have burgeoned with residential and retail construction, and the area's more interior towns, like Union City, North Bergen and Secaucus, are seeing higher real estate prices, renovations, new hotels and more business activity. The county as a whole is benefiting from better services, more parks, and new transportation options.
All of this growth has had a direct effect on businesses. Store owners along main streets like Bergenline Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard note that sales are up and foot traffic has increased. In Hoboken this summer, the taverns that used to lose business during the warmest months found more residents staying in town and enjoying the city's new waterfront parks rather than sprinting for the shore.
In Jersey City, commercial development has exploded along the waterfront, and plans also are in the works for new buildings downtown. The wave of development has also hit Secaucus with plans for a Meadowlands Mall project and the $100 million Gateway Expo and Convention Center at the Meadowlands, proposed for a 2002 opening.
The effect of the real estate boom can also be felt in North Bergen. There are plans to revitalize Tonnelle Avenue with a new shopping mall, and earlier this year, the Columbia Park shopping plaza opened. Included in this mini-mall were a movie theater, a Shop-Rite grocery store and several retail stores. In addition to corporate development, the first legs of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail opened this year. The line which, as of the end of this year, runs from Bayonne to the Newport Mall in Jersey City, gives shoppers more incentives to keep their money in Hudson County as well as spurring new businesses in areas that the light rail passes.
Main streets come alive
The year 2000 saw both privately- and government-funded incentives bring shoppers to the local shopping districts in Hudson County. In Hoboken, the Chamber of Commerce has come up with promotions such as drawings to encourage residents to shop locally, and has partnered with the city to provide shopping shuttles and free parking during the busiest shopping seasons.
The Chamber, which is now has more than 150 members, is funded by its members and is not paid for with public money. In other towns, some business districts have relied on programs fueled by state funding.
State and local grant and loan programs have helped energize shopping districts in North Bergen, West New York, Union City and Jersey City. In the Urban Enterprise Zones (UEZs) state money goes into redevelopment, and stores can charge only 3 percent sales tax instead of 6 percent. Then the tax goes back toward improvements.
In West New York, the UEZ has created a new look for Bergenline Avenue. The outdoor mall, with more than 300 stores, has a new Victorian streetscape with new light posts, sidewalks and banners. In addition, West New York has approved a five-year development plan that outlines plans to increase employment, strengthen existing businesses and attract new businesses.
Union City, a town whose heart lies in the small bodegas, restaurants and old family businesses that run the length of Bergenline and Summit avenues, took steps to make its UEZ more effective. On Sept. 19, the Board of Commissioners passed a resolution creating a new Urban Enterprise Zone Development Corp. board. The board, which will be composed of local merchants, will help give merchants more control of the UEZ and more ability to successfully promote their stores and restaurants.
In Jersey City, there are two Special Improvement Districts (SIDs), which are state-funded community-based agencies that encourage business development. The goal of the SIDs is to make sure the avenues are clean and graffiti-free, and to continue fa