Law Students Hear from New Jersey Redevelopment Expert
Dilapidated buildings, vacant parking lots, unsightly curbs, and peeling paint were common sights in New Brunswick in the 1970s.
Visitors today see a popular hotel with an iconic fountain, new dormitories and a thriving bookstore for Rutgers University, accessible parking garages, a revamped train station, and other businesses that were completed in large part by Devco, a private, nonprofit, urban real estate development company.
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Chris Paladino, CLAW '85, the president of Devco, talked to students in Professor Robert Holmes’ Community & Transactional Lawyering Clinic and Professor John Kettle’s Intellectual Property Clinic, each based in Newark, New Jersey, in mid-October about private/public partnerships. He explained how he’d like to see Devco’s success duplicated in Atlantic City where ACDevco has already begun redevelopment projects there – including a new satellite campus for Stockton University.
ACDevCo was created upon the recommendation of the Governor's Commission on New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment. Three members of the Governor's Commission, including Holmes, serve on ACDevCo's Board of Trustees. ACDevCo was modeled on New Brunswick DevCo, and Paladino now serves as its president.
Paladino credited Devco’s success in New Brunswick to partnerships created with major local players, including Johnson & Johnson, Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, the City of New Brunswick and Middlesex County. He said the nonprofit organization he headed was able to leverage state tax credits, redevelopment funds, loans, and other financing mechanisms that aren’t available to government entities.
As he detailed the complex negotiations and partnerships that Devco achieved, Paladino also had practical advice for the law students – to remain open-minded about their job prospects and to not be afraid to take chances. “Don’t have tunnel vision, you never know what opportunities are going to come by,” he said.
Paladino also talked about changing philosophy regarding redevelopment in New Jersey – rather than encouraging train stations to commute residents out of a city, the idea is to bring people into a city; mixed-use developments can bring ground-floor businesses and services needed by residents who live in the apartment buildings above, and mixing low-income and market-rate housing allows developers to take advantage of tax breaks and loan opportunities for needed low-income housing.
Holmes said he wanted his students to get a glimpse at the complexities involved in creating a successful land deal and to also consider non-profit companies when thinking about future career opportunities. “The non-profit sector is much overlooked when it comes to business options.”