Fifty58 is a new mixed-use development in Paramus, NJ – a place some might call the shopping mall capital of the world (or at least it feels like that to those of us who grew up nearby!). But it was a project that almost never was until a successful rezoning effort that allowed, for the first time, residential uses in areas that had previously been zoned strictly for commercial activity (according to NorthJersey.Com). When completed, the project will include 45 residential units (four of which will be designated as affordable housing. reflecting a 10% set aside) and 7,000 sf of retail space on the ground floor – all occupying the site of a drive through bank and gas station.
The process, discussed here, took over a year and included negotiations between elected officials over the percentage of affordable housing (some requested a 20% set aside). The new zoning enabled the developers of Fifty58 to advance a project that would have been impossible under the previous zoning framework. And therein lies the lesson. As developers increasingly pursue and invest in multi-use development, public sector partners will continue to be critical partners in the redevelopment process. And the public sector and community partners will need to anticipate the need for these changes if they want to sustain economic growth. This challenge will be particularly critical in communities that have abandoned or aging shopping centers in need of redevelopment.