Building up Newark

Jessica Perry//July 29, 2019

Building up Newark

Jessica Perry//July 29, 2019

Allison Ladd, director of Newark’s Department of Economic and Housing Development,
Allison Ladd, the incoming director of Newark’s Department of Economic and Housing Development

Allison Ladd, the deputy director of the Washington, D.C. Office of Housing and Economic Development, is slated to take over as director of Newark’s Department of Economic and Housing Development, replacing John Palmieri. Ladd recently spoke with NJBIZ reporter Daniel Munoz about her tenure in the nation’s capital and the challenges she sees in New Jersey’s largest city.

“We have to find a way that allows the residents who have lived in the city generation after generation” to benefit in cities such as Newark or Washington, D.C., she said. Here are some other excerpts from the interview.

On Washington’s housing investments: “Our mayor invested $100 million of local funds to something called the Housing Production Trust Fund. It’s gap financing … to developers. They will build or create new housing or preserve existing housing in the city. … The funds can only finance about 50 percent of the project, so the developer has to come up with the other 50 percent. … In just over four and a half years that I’ve worked here, we’ve been able to look at a portfolio of projects that’s been over $500 million of D.C. investment. …

On gentrification: “We have a mayor who’s investing in bringing those companies and developments to a city, but we also have generations of families who lived here and who want to stay here and the cost of housing is growing. … It’s really back to that preservation strategy.”

On tax incentives: “Tax incentives, it can be controversial, but I think that if we understand the value of what the business is bringing to a neighborhood, then we can help strike the balance.”

On the incentives offered to Amazon: “When you look at the types of jobs that can be created, and what type of revenue, and tax revenue, can move in from a company like Amazon, you have to put your best foot forward. … D.C. was disappointed like Newark was. … But I don’t think that any of us want to give more than we’ll be able to receive back to the residents, because that’s really my goal. Any growth that we have on… business development or economic growth should all reach the people that live there.”

On opportunity zones: “I know that Newark and New Jersey have been leaders in trying to bring more private funds into underserved communities. … It’s still new to us in the economic development and housing arena. … I think that some of it, as I’ve heard the mayor talk about, saying how sometimes it’s about getting the energy around the effort of having people place Newark on a map and having people say ‘I want to invest here, or let me go learn more about this neighborhood, this community, this city’, and opportunity zones is for us to talk about what opportunities are in the city.”

On the challenges ahead: “I know that Newark has a large number of vacant and blighted [properties] and with the governor signing the land bank legislation last week, I know that it’s going to be a huge lift for Newark to be able to capitalize in the vacant lands and bring some type of transformation for those lots within neighborhoods.”