No nightlife, no young people: Liquor licenses emerge as a downtown revitalization tool

Hackensack is the county seat of Bergen County, New Jersey, which sits directly across the Hudson River from New York City. The city has about 43,000 residents, and shares the Metropolitan Campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University with neighboring city Teaneck.

Bergen County Courthouse.
Photo by KForce via Wikipedia

The city is known for a great diversity of neighborhoods and variety of land uses that are very close to one another. Within its borders are the prominent Hackensack University Medical Center, a trendy high-rise district about a mile long, classic suburban neighborhoods of single-family houses, stately older homes on acre-plus lots, older two-family neighborhoods, large garden apartment complexes, industrial areas, the Bergen County Jail, a tidal river, Hackensack River County Park, Borg’s Woods Nature Preserve, various city parks, large office buildings, a major college campus, the Bergen County Court House, an increasingly- vibrant small-city downtown district, and various small neighborhood business districts. According to a 2016 study, the city ranked as the 5th-best place in New Jersey for entrepreneurs.

Hackensack will soon have over 2000 new residential units in its downtown, but leaders are worrying that they won’t have anything to do in the evenings or on the weekends. That’s because only 8 or the city’s 40 alcohol licenses are for downtown establishments. The rest are out in the suburban malls.

Downtown Hackensack.
Photo via hackensack.org

But Jerry Lombardo, chairman of the Upper Main Street Alliance, said Hackensack still lacks the nightlife required to draw the young people city leaders want to move into the downtown. Hackensack on a Friday night is quiet, much quieter than the 24-hour city Lombardo envisions it becoming.

These young residents, they’re looking for bars and restaurants to keep the night life going,” he said. Lombardo pointed to the restaurants and nightlife that draw people to the booming downtowns of Jersey City and Hoboken for comparison. Lombardo floated the idea of special permits allowing the sale of liquor in redeveloping cities like Hackensack.

In addition to new residential capacity, in December of 2016, Hackensack’s Planning Board recommended the Ward Street redevelopment project to the City Council, which would bring more retail space and parking to downtown. “This is a project that supports the revitalization of the downtown and everything that we’re trying to accomplish and have been working on for the past six years,” said Francis Reiner, redevelopment consultant from DMR Architects.

The Ward Street redevelopment is part of the downtown rehabilitation plan completed in 2012.

See full NJ.com article by Myles Ma.

See article by Rodrigo Torrejon about the Ward Street redevelopment project in NorthJersey.com.

See city’s official downtown rehabilitation website.

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