Bayonne, NJ is the kind of place that folks form deep attachments to. Even when they move away or find another workplace, those warm feelings remain.
Last week I had lunch in Bayonne with an old friend and colleague, the city’s planner. It had been almost a year since I was last in the Bayonne Town Center and I was eager to see how it had held up during the Great Recession. After walking around the district for about an hour and a half, taking photos and shopping in some of the new stores, I was impressed by what I saw. Here was a perfect example of a downtown that, while experiencing higher than usual vacancies, was repositioning for the future by working to attract and create strong new assets.
Back home, I quickly sent Mary Divock, the district manager, an email message saying:
“…during the Great Recession the Town Center managed to make some really strong retail additions that will be even more important as the economy improves. I have attached snaps of the stores I feel are good additions. Most other downtowns I’ve visited recently cannot say the same. You should be proud.”
Here are some of the things I found:
- A new and popular green grocer
- ShopRite, located very close to the district, has doubled its size to 70,000 SF. I am hopeful that the district will be expanded to include the ShopRite and other nearby establishments. See: Article
- A new shop featuring silver products had opened
- So had a hearing aid shop
- Another firm featuring medical equipment had moved from a side street to Broadway
- GameStop and Petland had opened. According to a report in the Leisure eNewsletter, between 2007 and 2008, nationally, annual household expenditures for pets, toys, hobbies, etc. increased by almost 26%
- Plans for a nursing home, across from the Bayonne Medical Center, with Class-A retail space on the ground floor had obtained city approvals
- Plans for adding 14 residential units and renovating the store facades on an existing building were proceeding and there are expectations that some other buildings may follow suit
- There were more than normal vacancies, but really not that much more and certainly their perceived impact was more than offset by all the new shops. As the economy improves the vacancies will ebb, but the new shops will only get stronger.
After my visit I learned that with the bottoming out of the economy merchants were again applying to participate in the BTC’s Jump Start Facade Improvement Program.
Here are some relevant photos: