More towns finding arts jump-start development

Jessica Perry//March 3, 2014

More towns finding arts jump-start development

Jessica Perry//March 3, 2014

When Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. was looking for a bigger plot of land to house its ever-growing headquarters in the early 2000s, it could have relocated anywhere.

But when the Monmouth County-based builder compared areas, Red Bank won out.


Peter Reinhart, a longtime but now retired executive with the company, said it came down to a number of factors — one of them he could see out his office window when the new building was finished in 2006.

The Count Basie Theater.

“It’s definitely a draw for businesses that want to create that type of opportunity and atmosphere for their employees, as well as their customers,” Reinhart said.

Tax incentives, streamlined regulatory rules and cheap, available land certainly draw companies, but arts and cultural institutions can be a difference-maker when it comes to luring companies, developers and eventually residents.

“If you just had dining, it would be OK, but when you add the cultural thing, I think that’s what separates those towns from other places when businesses are looking to locate their offices,” Reinhart said. “Look at Newark. The performing arts center is really helping at least that part of the city.”

That success has been mirrored across other towns throughout New Jersey.

In Rahway, for instance, the arts became a critical component of the town’s overall growth strategy. Jim Kennedy, the mayor there from 1990 to 2010, dedicated his last 10 years in office to aggressively ramping up the arts scene in the town to spur economic development.

“I started seeing this working very effectively almost as a natural thing in other areas,” said Kennedy, now the economic development director in Burlington.