Archive for 2008

What does an all night art show mean to Trenton?

For Trenton watchers who missed the news that a new arts festival called “Art All Night” happened over the weekend (June 21-22), you need to get your glasses checked. The promotion was everywhere.

“Art All Night” is a free event sponsored by Artworks in Trenton that showcases art submitted by anybody that wants to. Every professional and amateur artists was welcome to submit 1 piece and as a result over 600 artists were represented. In addition: films, bands, art demonstrations and food were part of this quirky art event led by Michael Gumpert and now in its 2nd year.

The event moved to a new space this year, a ~100,000 SF former Roebling wire rope factory and attracted many more patrons (probably double or triple) than last year’s already healthy attendance.

But the question is, what does it mean to Trenton? Read the rest of this entry »

A Vision and Plan for Trenton

Unlike other industrial towns that have re-invigorated themselves (Pittsburgh, Jersey City and even Newark) Trenton has been left behind. Trenton’s Mayor Palmer is a nice guy and seems to mean well but just hasn’t been able to steer the city towards any meaningful revitalization. For the past 17 years during the Palmer administration, we’ve been treated like a welfare state chasing every government handout available and with predictable results. We’ve chased away high income residents and attracted poverty.

The facts speak for themselves.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 1999 to 2006 New Jersey’s per capita income has risen 18% while Newark’s has risen 24% and Jersey City a whopping 29%. Meanwhile, Trenton has lost ground with a meager 9% gain in the same seven years moving from $14,621 to $15,933. In 2006, while Trenton was busy electing the mayor that delivered these sad results, the city’s per capita income actually shrunk by 0.4% while New Jersey, as a state, grew 1.3%, Newark gained a respectable 4.8% and Jersey City grew an astounding 14.6% and

Given Trenton’s abysmal record it’s clear that the current administration either doesn’t really want to fix the problem or just doesn’t know how. Furthermore, it pains Trentonians to see the US Conference of Mayors being led to believe that Trenton is a model of economic revitalization. It clearly is not!

As a long time Trenton activist, real estate investor and student of urban economic issues I’m offering this paper as an alternative approach to Trenton’s revitalization.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Economics of Crime

One of, if the not the biggest thing holding back revitalization in American cities is crime.

The facts speak for themselves – cities with high crime rates generally have poor growth rates. Cities that have somehow improved their crime rate do much better.

City Comparison

New York and Washington, DC are great examples of cities that have aggressively attacked their crime issues and have unleashed unprecedented economic growth. Washington used to be the most dangerous city in America and New York was supposed to be leading the country into chaos.

Looking just at New Jersey, two cities, New Brunswick and Newark are overcoming their crime issues and generating positive population growth. Meanwhile, Asbury Park, Trenton and Camden continue to scare their populations away.

Lot’s of people have lots of things to say about crime. The police say they do all they can and blame the courts for a revolving door justice system or the public for not cooperating. Children’s advocates blame lack of after-school programs. Civil rights leaders blame racism. Parents blame everybody and Bill Cosby blames parents.

Read the rest of this entry »

Real re-development

When you get right down to it, the only thing that really counts as re-development is money being spent to improve a property for an economic purpose.

That’s it.

Building a new museum, cleaning the streets and writing a new master plan simply don’t count. They don’t produce direct economic benefit. Often times they DO lead to new economic development because a developer prefers to invest on clean streets next to spiffy new art museums.

With this in mind I found it interesting to compare and contrast two “re-development” articles in today’s Trenton Times (June 18, 2008).

The first article, in the business section, announces that a new supermarket, Food Bazaar, is coming to Ron Berman’s Roebling Market. This is big news!. Whether or not Trenton is actually underserved by grocery stores would take some analysis to figure out, but there is no doubt that adding a large store like Food Bazaar will add variety and competition to the market. We can only assume that Food Bazaar’s management is sophisticated enough to have evaluated both the opportunity and competition in Trenton and the surrounding area. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to Re-Inventing Trenton

My name is Dan Dodson.

Over the years I’ve written quite a bit about Trenton, New Jersey and all of our various issues. The articles were published in the Trenton Downtowner, The Trenton Times and sometimes just my own Trenton Page on

This blog will attempt to continue the same dialogue with Trenton citizens and policymakers but now with more of a two-way approach.

The blog will accept comments. (Though offensive and incoherent language will not be tolerated).

I look forward to debating the issues of the day affecting our efforts to turn Trenton into a great city.

I’ll be impressed with data driven arguments that guide our policy and approach.