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Bordentown ‘on the move’ with economic growth

Nov 25, 2013 05:57AM, Published by Community News Service, Categories: News, Community, Business

By Lexie Yearly

The Greater Bordentown Area Mayors’ Luncheon, organized by the MIDJersey Chamber of Congress, focused on the business development going on in Bordentown City and Bordentown Township.

At the luncheon, held Oct. 1 at Villa Mannino in Bordentown Township, township mayor Jim Cann touted the growing amount of ongoing business projects, including Kevin Johnson’s Team Campus Bordentown site, Waterfront Transit Village progress, and potential interest in the township’s warehouse district.

While some might think of a crossroads community as a negative, Cann said, he sees it as a positive for economic development. He named the major highways accessible to township residents: the NJ Turnpike, Interstate 295, and the intersecting routes of U.S. 130 and U.S. 206, which divide the town. Cann noted that progress has continued for two large ongoing development projects in the township.

Construction is currently underway on Phase 1 of the Waterfront Transit Village along U.S. 130, which includes both retail and residential building construction.

The Team Campus Bordentown site is set to feature five buildings, including the Team85 Fitness and Wellness, St. Francis Medical Center, St. Francis Fieldhouse, Performance Spine and Sports Medicine, and Fulton Bank. As construction continues, updates include the opening of Fulton Bank and the approval for dialysis for the first floor of St. Francis Medical Center.

Several smaller sites in the township are also in the process of being cleaned up, sold or have attracted interest of potential tenants and buyers.

Cann said the Central Business Crossings, a warehouse district in the township, has a potential interested purchaser for the site. Last year, the site had been under consideration for a new warehouse.

The now-closed River Mill Restaurant on Farnsworth Avenue is set to be converted into apartments and commercial office space, and the old Burger King site has been sold to a retailer.

The Circuit Foil site, formerly Yates Industries, is undergoing a cleanup process because of the contamination there, and the old Capital Bedding site has been sold to a local business operator.

“In essence, we’re on the move,” Cann said about the growth and progress around the township.

“We want to do it the right way,” he continued. “We want to bring in the right businesses that fit in the town.”

Cann also noted that the impact of ratables will be very positive for the township, which has upgraded its rating of AA with a negative outlook to AA with a stable outlook.

Cann also touched on some aspects of shared services, a topic brought up by an audience member, and noted that the township had just entered into a shared animal control service agreement with neighboring Florence Township that could potentially include other towns, too.

Joe Myers spoke about current Bordentown City issues in place of mayor Joe Malone, who was away on vacation the day of the event. Myers is the chair of the Economic Advisory Development Committee and vice chairman of the planning board.

He began by touting some of the city’s recent accomplishments, including the completion of the Delaware River Heritage Trail, which continues along the river from Trenton to Palmyra and loops back around through Pennsylvania. Myers also mentioned the weekly farmers’ market, annual Cranberry Festival and the city’s distinction as part of “Classic Towns” by the Delware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

He mentioned other important city qualities, including its walkability public amenities, and the importance of being strategic with land use and real estate. Myers ended his speech by talking about one of the most pressing issues in the city, the impending loss of the Ocean Spray Cranberries plant. Ocean Spray has been constructing a new, more modern facility in Upper Macungie, Pa. with plans to move operations out of Bordentown at the end of this year. Delays in the construction of the new facility, however, are expected to keep Ocean Spray operations in Bordentown until summer 2014.

While Myers did not provide much new information about what residents can expect to replace the property, he did say that city officials are working actively with Ocean Spray to determine its future.

City resident Beth Guinness, who lives on Lucas Drive directly behind the Ocean Spray plant, voiced concerns during the Q&A portion of the event about the city’s plans for the facility. Myers said the city is working to rezone properties in and around the Ocean Spray location in hopes that when the economy turns, the city will be in an optimal position to market the site.

Myers also noted that although it’s still very early, the city may be able to take advantage of the recent proposed consolidation of the state’s five tax credit programs down to two for companies investing in the state and creating jobs. Though the property will still be owned by Ocean Spray, the city will be a part of future planning for the site.

Guinness said after the presentation that her biggest concern is that the property will be left vacant, leaving the site to fall into disrepair, a squatting ground for illicit activities and a site without regular policing.

She referenced the site on the opposite side of her neighborhood, where the Retro Fitness is now located.

“That was vacant for a long time, and it was depressing actually coming home…to a vacant site every evening,” Guinness said, noting that the opening of Retro Fitness on the site was a welcome relief.

“You feel good about where you live if it’s thriving,” she said.

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