Citing similar small cities like Oakland, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., the Star Ledger draws some lessons from the recent ICSC conference which Booker attended to figure out just how Newark can bring more retail business to the city: Newark has model for luring retailers.
“One part of it is getting retailers up to the learning curve,” said Lamont Blackstone, a co-founder of DLC Urban Core, a developer who specializes in refurbishing shopping centers in cities. “The retail industry is still in an evolutionary stage with understanding the customer.”
Blackstone said Home Depot is a pioneer in returning to the inner city. The hardware chain opened a store on Springfield Avenue in Newark several years ago and it was the first big-box retailer to open shop in years. The city also boasts of an Old Navy, Foot Locker, Ashley Stewart, New York & Company and Modell’s.
Officials though are looking to move to the next tier of stores and wouldn’t mind seeing a bookstore like Borders or grocery stores such as Stop & Shop or Trader Joe’s move in. Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he is willing to offer discounted land as long as retailers are willing to guarantee jobs for local residents and comply with environmental regulations.
Developers say the one surefire way to attract them to the urban pockets is tax incentives or deals for cheap land.
“Incentivize everything,” said Brian J. Holdwick, vice president of business and financial services for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.
Holdwick said cities also need to provide downtown streetscape and bring residents back into the city. Detroit also had brought in a slew of casinos, but those did not rejuvenate the city the way it had hoped.
The turning point for the Motor City, he said, is when it hosted the Superbowl in 2006 at Ford Field. Hosting the event, he said, inspired Detroit to invest heavily on its infrastructure and attract more businesses.
Oakland, a city that is often compared to Newark, sits on the east bay, across from San Francisco and also has been beset by crime. With a population of 411,755, it is larger than Newark, which has 283,879 residents. Last year, violence claimed 148 lives, a spike of 57 percent over 2005. Most of the violence was due to gang warfare and drugs.
Like Newark, it has waterfront property, an airport and is the nexus of three major highways. And like Newark, the city is overshadowed by a much larger metropolis: San Francisco.
A Whole Foods opened in 2005 and a Trader Joe’s is on its way. Cafes are springing up throughout the city.
Even so, the city has 137 sites available for lease and another 51 for sale. It is offering façade improvement grants, enterprise zone tax credits and assistance in hiring and training employees.