Friday, November 15, 2019

New Jersey EDA Awards Opportunity Zone Grants to Four Towns, One County

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has awarded four Garden State municipalities and one county $100,000 each, based on their strategies to attract federal Opportunity Zone investment, which in many cases involves real estate development.

Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this year announced the Opportunity Zone Challenge Program, which he described as a "competitive grant process" that would give a total of $500,000 to towns or jurisdictions that "come up with the best game plan for how they would tackle their opportunity zones."

The EDA, based in Trenton, New Jersey, administered the program and has chosen Cumberland County, Hackensack, the borough of Flemington, Paterson and Jersey City as grant winners.

"The five plans that will receive funding through this round of the challenge represent the kind of proactive thinking we need to not only address the challenges we face today but also to lay the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic growth," EDA Chief Executive Tim Sullivan said in a statement.

Championed by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, the federal Opportunity Zone program was created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The goal is to drive long-term private capital into designated low-income urban and rural communities. The lure is providing investors, including real estate developers, tax breaks on capital gains. The Garden State has 169 opportunity zones in 75 municipalities.

The EDA is trying to help what it described as "strained local governments" in New Jersey to actively draw investment within their borders by encouraging them to draft specific plans to compete for capital. There are over 8,700 Opportunity Zones in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories.

Jersey City will do a financial feasibility study leading to an investment prospectus regarding its two Opportunity Zones in the Journal Square area, which is envisioned as the future site of a cultural arts district, according to the EDA.

Paterson plans to create a user-friendly catalog of zoning codes and regulations in each of the city’s eight Opportunity Zones to guide investors on their projects.

Hackensack's game plan is to do a Life Science Zone Assessment Report, building on a prior report that found that specific areas within the city's Opportunity Zones "would serve as a feasible location for the construction of a life science park," according to the EDA.

The municipality of Flemington's strategy is to hold a series of in-depth stakeholder meetings to help create community participation in Opportunity Zone strategic planning; conduct a borough-wide examination of zoning to reduce regulatory hurdles and encourage development; and craft new marketing plans to showcase the borough's potential Opportunity Zone investment projects.

Flemington, completely covered by one opportunity-zone tract, in July held a conference for investors where it discussed shovel-ready projects in town.

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