New zoning regulations that encourage multifamily projects are transforming downtowns in several New Jersey cities. The zoning policy shift could produce the biggest transformation of North New Jersey’s downtowns since the arrival of malls pulled shoppers away from town centers in the 1960s and 1970s, according to NorthJersey.com.
The suburban communities are responding to millennials who want to live in urban environments and aging suburbanites who want to downsize in their hometowns. “People want to live in places where they have that downtown, where they can live close to things that they’re going to eat and things that they’re going to buy, and the market is following,” said Maggie Peters, director of the Bergen County Economic Development Corp.
Permits for multifamily units in the county have outpaced single- and two-family permits every year since 2009. Since the 1970s, most of the region’s communities had zoned their downtowns for commercial uses. In recent years, some have added hundreds of new apartment units.
One area town, Ridgewood, which already has a thriving downtown retail district, has resisted the trend so far. Concerns over parking and traffic have come to the fore as the community considers zoning changes that would allow large multifamily projects downtown.