A new Jersey City ordinance is attempting to limit national retailers in the area in an effort to hold onto the small-town charm that the city is known for. NJBiz reports that the ordinance will limit national retailers (businesses with at least 10 other properties within 300 miles) to 30% of the ground-floor commercial space in downtown Jersey City. Exemptions include part of the Waterfront area and grocery stores.
Mayor Steven Fulop supports the ordinance, and cites the former Hard Grove Cafe location that is now a PNC Bank as an example. “From a developer’s standpoint, a bank is an easier tenant. But within that block radius, there are multiple banks,” Fulop said. “From a community standpoint, we’d rather see a restaurant that encourages the community to come together.”
Of course, developers have a different perspective. James Pierson, president of Pierson Commercial Real Estate says, “I understand where Fulop is coming from, but a lot of towns thrive on the market presence of a national retailer.” He believes towns benefit from the addition of national retailers – that they can actually increase interest in neighboring smaller businesses. Additionally, newer developments looking to lease their retail space likely need to charge a higher rent to make their investment worthwhile. Small businesses usually can’t afford these higher rents.”
Rounding out the debate, John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, makes a very interesting (and valid) point. “The biggest threat to smaller independent businesses are not chains — it’s the Internet,” Holub said. “Larger retailers and small independents can and will continue to coexist — and placing strict limits on what type of businesses can and cannot open is ill-advised and shortsighted.” His organization is also opposed to the ordinance.
With all these differing opinions, one thing is for sure – as Jersey City continues to grow, keeping a balance between the old and the new, the big and the small, is key.