According to a proposal, the Fulop administration wants to restrict the number of chain stores in the downtown area of Jersey City. As stated by Mayor Steve Fulop, the goal with the new rules is to protect and preserve the unique character of neighborhoods in the downtown area. Fulop went on to explain the importance of protecting mom and pop retailers but also encouraging these types of establishments.
As a primary example, Fulop talked about the owners of the former Hard Grove Café that wanted to convert the space into a bank. However, with this being directly across from the Grove Street PATH station and heavily trafficked, Fulop expressed concern, saying that did not best the need or asset of the community. Instead, the focus is on seeing more interest diversity and texture to retailers in the neighborhood.
In the proposal, chain stores were defined as businesses with multiple locations in the same region that present standardized characteristics to include company logos, store décor, menus, and so on. Under the initial proposal, only 30 percent of ground floor space in the downtown area could be used by “chain stores. The only exceptions are Newport, a large section of the Waterfront, and grocery stores.
Although Fulop pushed hard to keep large chain stores from overcrowding the downtown landscape, there wants some opposition. For instance, John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchant Association was against the proposal. Holub said that while it is important to have an independent and vibrant retail sector, controlling market forces is disturbing.
However, Fulop's actions are not unique. Similar proposals have been submitted in other cities to include San Francisco. In fact, the number of chain stores in San Francisco’s downtown area started being limited in 2004. Another example is Nantucket where chains were banned from the downtown area in 2006.
In addition to downtown Jersey City, Fulop hopes to expand the rules to other areas like Bergen-Lafayette and Journal Square. Just as some people have opposed the new rule, others strong support it. Owner of Nine Bar Café, Stefania Cocozza, loves the idea but said it is not a fix-all method of protecting small business owners. She went on to say that many small business owners leave because of high rent and taxes.
While Fulop’s proposal faced a number of hurdles, it made incredible headway last week by receiving an almost unanimous vote from the Planning Board in favor of restrictions as reported by NJ.com. Now, final approval for the new rules needs to come from the City Council. If passed, chain stores would be prohibited from renting large space on the ground floor in a wide range of locations downtown.
In looking at how well San Francisco and Nantucket have done. Fulop is strongly encouraged. As closing comments, Fulop reaffirmed his intensions of retaining downtown character with the new rules but also, to widen restrictions at some time in the future.