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by Philip Zhou ’21
This special burst presentation at the 13th Annual Real Estate Symposium featured Mayor Ravi Bhalla, highlighting the city of Hoboken, NJ, which has managed to balance public health and keep the economy, small businesses, and public transit running. With a population of 52,000 people, it is located across the Hudson River from Manhattan and is the birthplace of Frank Sinatra and baseball.
The audience heard insights into what Hoboken is doing to thrive as well as lessons city government learned through Hurricane Sandy. Ravi Bhalla is Hoboken’s 39th Mayor, a lawyer, and a two-decade resident of Hoboken. He has served on the Hoboken City Council since 2009, during which he served as Council President.
Pound for pound, Hoboken is one of the best cities in America. One of the unique features of Hoboken is that it is an incubator city to see what works in smaller urban environments. Mayor Bhalla’s role is to represent the interests of the residents with a quality of life they can enjoy. Hoboken brings charm, character, and emphasis on historic preservation. Residents come from other communities to avoid overdevelopment. Hoboken strikes that balance and offers tremendous opportunities for both residents and investors.
During Hurricane Sandy, 80% of Hoboken was underwater. The city subsequently focused on rebuilding by design to keep Hoboken resilient for residents and businesses for years to come. The auxiliary benefit to the community is that it also protects the real estate assets of developers and insulates Hoboken from the impacts of climate change.
Take the South Waterfront of Hoboken for example, which offers breathtaking views of Manhattan. It also offers transit to Manhattan that is extremely convenient, including boat rides that take just 5 minutes. Considering the geography, accessibility, and affordability, it is simply hard to beat. Another example is the North End, which is a 19-block redevelopment zone. This will become a city within a city that offers mass transit, ferry, and light rail, which will anchor economic development. Additionally, the Hoboken Terminal (Lackawanna Terminal) is one of the only transit-oriented developments that offers several mass transit options including light rail, bus, train, ferry, and pedestrian traffic. Hoboken has the highest percentage of residents who rely on these options to get to and from work in Manhattan due to the incredible accessibility.
An important priority is to balance urban growth while preserving Hoboken’s unique and special character to live, play, and work. On the residential side, there is a western-moving flow due to COVID-19, in which some residents of Hoboken are experiencing a flight to the suburbs, but that is complemented by people from Manhattan purchasing homes in Hoboken. On the commercial side, vacancy has increased during the pandemic, but developers understand that this will end, and Hoboken will be one of the first to bounce back as they have the insulation from both New York City and the suburbs. Be sure to stop by for some of the best cannoli in America!
Philip Zhou ’21 is a second-year student at Columbia Business School. He is currently a Vice President at Capital Group, home of American Funds, which manages $2 trillion in assets. Philip co-manages the relationship team and partners with financial advisors to customize investment strategy plans. He was previously a Senior Associate at AllianceBernstein, a $600 billion investment research and management firm. Philip graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied Political Economics and International Business. Philip also serves as a board member for the Cal Alumni Club of New York, is the New York City chapter representative for the Semester at Sea Alumni Association, and is an advisor to First Generation Investors, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.