Seeking to save the mom and pop stores, Mayor Steven Fulop has proposed limiting the number of chain stores that can operate downtown.
He said downtown has been tapped out and that there is a risk that the area could lose its small businesses.
“People like doing business with mom and pop stores,” he said.
Downtown is an area around the Grove Street PATH station. It has a mixture of brownstones and other residential properties. Ground floor businesses operate along Grove Street, Newark Avenue, and number of other streets in the area.
Because of the wealth of the area, it is become attractive to larger chain businesses, and this puts pressure on local shops that may lack the resources to compete.
Fulop said part of the attraction of Downtown is the somewhat quaint feel. Many people have compared the Grove Street area to Greenwich Village. There are a number of art galleries, many restaurants, and other small boutiques.
Under the new rules, which will first come before the Planning Board, only 30 percent of commercial space in the Downtown district can be rented to businesses that have 10 other outlets within 300 miles of Jersey City.
He said the recent move of Hard Grove Café left the corner of Columbus Avenue and Grove Street available.
“That’s a prime location near the PATH station and it is going to be a bank,” Fulop told the Hudson Reporter. “We want more diversity or some community asset. And in our view, a bank is not the best use of that location.”
The new rules would define a chain store as one that has a number of locations with standardized features such a store décor, logos, menus, and such.
“That part of the city is at the tipping point,” Fulop said. “We do not want to lose the mom and pop stores we have because people want to do business with them.”
Fulop said other areas of Jersey City would not be affected by the change of rules until they also reach a point of saturation.
“We want to encourage investment in other parts of the city, but do not want to lose the characteristics of those neighborhoods that are often defined by locally-owned stores,” he said.
Street fairs sponsored by the city are geared towards steering residents and non residents to do business with these smaller businesses.
For now, the change would be limited to Downtown, while other parts of the city including Journal Square would still be open to chain store investment.
This zoning restriction could run into serious opposition from larger businesses who want to tap into the wealth of the downtown community. And this raises the question about government’s role in pushing for investment in the community.
Fulop has been seeking investment from big business, and this seems to contradict his efforts.
Fulop has been very active in supporting local businesses. Especially in the Grove Street area, including street fairs and farmers’ markets that often incorporate small entrepreneurs.
“If I had to choose between a Mod Cup and a Starbucks for buying a cup of coffee, I would choose a Mod Cup every time,” Mayor Steven Fulop said. “They are passionate about Jersey City and care about the community.”
He reiterated that other parts of the city will be open to larger companies, but as these areas reach the same point as Downtown, the restrictions will be imposed. “This language will be included in all 40 redevelopment plans,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.