New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently signed a bill that will expand the use of public-private partnerships in the state to include building and highway projects. Lawmakers hope the new legislation will encourage greater investment in New Jersey infrastructure. Read more
Sustainable Community Development in New Jersey
New Jersey is breaking new ground in sustainability (at least within the state) as they have just launched a completely green community. The Village Green at Annandale, located just an hour from New York City, is a modern and sustainable community development that will have its’ grand opening on September 10th. Offering everything from apartments and luxury town homes to commercial spaces the village will likely have no shortage of interested buyers and renters who are looking to save money on their energy bills. While it may be a relatively small step for now it represents a big sustainable step for the state.
The project’s developer, Richard Meurer, is enthusiastic about the villages progress up until this point and was extremely enthusiastic about its’ future.
“We are confident that we have built the premier ecovillage in the Garden State, “said Meurer while also elaborating that, “Solar has the undeniable power to change our lives for the better.”
Powered by a two acre solar farm the complex is entirely self-sustainable. That means the community would have no need to bring in energy from outside making the complex a desirable one for business looking to cut costs. It was also built on the footprint of an old lumber yard which has been incorporated into the sites design. The mix of modern and historical has also made it an attractive spot for young homeowners (or renters) and their families. Mostly comprised of one, two and three bedroom apartments it is a great place to start and one where one does not have to pay more for convenience and design. The complex is already 52% occupied before it has even opened and a lot of that has to do with how affordable it is.
Expanding on his previous statement, Meurer hopes to continue building such communities in the future. He said, “This community is proof that renewable energy systems can be attractive, functional and integrated into traditional neighborhoods.” It will serve as a model for a 23 acre solar site that Meurer hopes to build by 2015. There is a shortage of contractors capable of executing such a sustainable project in New Jersey and that shortage could be an excellent opportunity for contractors who are looking to differentiate themselves from the competition and it could give a vital spark to an industry that has been struggling since 2008.
NJ contractors have made headlines this month, but not necessarily the ones that they may have envisioned. Five dozen home improvement contractors, all based out of New Jersey, have been cited for violations that range from operating without a proper registration to failure to complete projects that were pre-paid by customers. The situation has enraged homeowners and contractors alike and has some clamoring for the government to set better statewide standards that will define responsible contracting. In an op-ed for the Times of Trenton, Michael Capelli, a 30-year union contractor, outlined some principles that the state should look to adhere to if they plan on setting new standards in order to help consumers and contractors identify acts of malpractice.
Public trust in the building industry dissipating
Capelli’s primary concern is that such criminal acts reflect poorly on the entire building industry. In 2012 there were over 1,400 complaints about home improvement contractors in New Jersey which is the most of any category currently regulated by state officials. With customers not receiving the support they expect from NJ contractors, and since such problems are happening frequently, they may be less likely to trust others in the industry (plumbers, electricians, etc.). And no one wants to see their business suffer because of a few builders who have done their best to tarnish the reputation of the entire industry in New Jersey.
Counteracting public distrust through greater regulation
To reverse the disturbing trend Capelli has made an argument for greater government regulations and standards over the industry. Such regulations, according to Capelli, would be used to measure contractor responsibility and would have to adhere to three principles:
1. The development of a sensible and fair contracting process
2. Clear and reasonable contracting standards
3. Increased transparency and accountability
A fair contracting process with clear standards and transparency should reduce hidden costs for consumers and will renew trust in the industry. Renewed trust should help re-establish the state’s declining building industry but it will not do enough to revitalize it. To do that, the government will have to work on establishing new incentives, tax breaks and greater investment in building. Capelli’s argument is by no means definitive as greater regulation could also negatively affect the industry. But, what it does do is highlight that builders across the state are in need of support which they should be receiving from their local and state representatives.
The money just keeps flowing down to Atlantic City this month as another transportation project has been approved for America’s Favorite Playground. But, this time the improvements aren’t coming on the boardwalk or in the form of improved roadways and casinos. This time it’s coming to the city effort in an effort to drive more traffic to southern New Jersey. The $1.8 million dollar renovation will assist in taxiway rehabilitation as well as a few reconstruction projects at Atlantic City International Airport (ACY). There’s just one more thing. The funding isn’t coming from the state or local governments, it’s not even coming from the South Jersey Transportation Authority. It’s coming from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Why is the FAA Investing in ACY?
While the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) does have some say over the direction of the airport it is not the primary owner of land at the airport. The FAA controls most of it after the city sold 4,312 acres of the airport to the federal government. The FAA will continue to control the airport grounds until it no longer has a use for it in which case, ownership will revert back to the SJTA.
Since the FAA owns a majority of the airport it was only a matter of time before it was included under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The AIP, according to the FAA website, provides grants to public agencies for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). NPIAS airports are those deemed by the government as those airports that act as critical hubs for travel around the nation. So, though the SJTA owns the airport the FAA owns the land and has a vested interest in making sure ACY is running both efficiently and safely.
A Hub Long Neglected
When the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (the organization that oversees the operations at the airport) announced their 10-year, $27.6 billion capital plan the Atlantic City International Airport was surprisingly omitted. No funding would have been a major setback not only for the airport but also the region of Southern New Jersey that relies on the airport as a major transportation hub. When the FAA announced that the airport would be receiving vital improvements local politicians and SJTA officials were overjoyed.
“We are pleased to learn of the award. These investments help the airport maintain its state of excellence,” stated SJTA interim executive director Frank Frankowski.
Hopefully, with some further FAA investment and some help from local and federal contractors the airport can continue to be a major transportation hub and economic asset for the region. Atlantic City could use it.
Over our past few blog posts we’ve talked about how the construction industry is seemingly on the rise, how contractors are shaping the world of tomorrow and where you may fit into that overall picture. Unfortunately, we have some bad news. Two years ago, New Jersey was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, a storm that claimed the lives of 34 people living in the state, destroyed homes and disrupted life as we know it for countless numbers of people residing in New Jersey. Contractors were quick to lend a hand as opportunities to rebuild were fairly abundant as the Federal Government and the state sought to return everyone to some semblance of normalcy. But, the industry that had grown so much and restored so much hope has finally experienced a state of decline which gives rise to the question; what will New Jersey contractors do as opportunities for employment dry up within the state?