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Bordentown City officials preparing for Ocean Spray move

May 12, 2014 05:59AM, Published by Community News Service, Categories: News, Community, Business

By Lexie Yearly

As Ocean Spray prepares to shut down in Bordentown and open at its newly built plant in Upper Macungie Township, Pa., Bordentown City is also preparing to address the void the bottling plant will leave after the decades spent in its Park Street location.

Nearly three years after plans for relocation were first announced, the new plant was set to officially open its doors on April 29. As of press time, Ocean Spray was in the midst of commissioning the new plant, which means testing was being done on both equipment and process.

However, the next several months are expected to be a time of transition, Ocean Spray spokesperson Kellyanne Dignan said, and production would still continue in Bordentown as the new facility gets into full swing.

About 100 employees at the Bordentown plant were expected to relocate or had already relocated to the new facility.

“As we ramp up operations in Lehigh Valley this spring, we will begin a ramp down in Bordentown,” Dignan wrote in an email. “We expect some operations and personnel to remain through the summer and have communicated to our employees and local officials that there will be phased layoffs over the next six or so months.”

The 63-acre Bordentown property became an Ocean Spray facility in 1943 and is the oldest in the Ocean Spray network. It runs six production lines and produces 32 million cases of juice a year. Ocean Spray opted to build its brand new facility in Upper Macungie instead of renovating the Bordentown plant.

Even before production begins to wind down in Bordentown, city officials have already been planning ahead for the impending move.

One of the main ways the move will affect the city immediately is water usage, said Bordentown City deputy mayor Jim Lynch. The Ocean Spray plant currently uses about 100 gallons of water a day.

To prepare, the city looked at how the water and sewer usage would be affected and last year introduced modest water and sewer rate increases.

City mayor Joe Malone said water use would affect the city initially, but he felt confident that within a year or two, “water flows and sewer flows that were coming out of Ocean Spray will be absorbed by other users,” noting the ongoing development of the Waterfront Transit Village and plans for a warehouse construction on Hedding Road in Bordentown Township.

But what’s most important, Lynch said, is that the property is not left empty for any longer than it needs to be; filling the space as soon as possible is imperative.

“We don’t want to see that property languish for any period of time,” Lynch said. “We would like to do our due diligence, especially with the economy hopefully turning around.”

Ocean Spray owns the property, so city officials must work along with Ocean Spray during the marketing and sale of the property to a potential new tenant.

“We’re trying to work with them and come up with a reasonable plan as to what we’d like to see go into the property, and how we’d like to see it transitioned,” Malone said. “It really will take an effort between Ocean Spray and the city to come up with alternatives for the city use for the property.”

Malone said the planning board is looking to get a grant that will allow a complete study of how the property might best be utilized, restructured and rezoned, and Malone himself has been in touch with the lieutenant governor’s office about potential business incentives and retention programs.

There are many potential options for how the property could be used, ranging from multipurpose commercial and residential to exclusively commercial, even considering possibilities like a small brewery relocating there.

Many of those options will be fleshed out as the city and Ocean Spray consider the assets already located on the property, Malone said. More recent additions like the warehouse facility added in the ’80s may be attractive to some tenants, while the pretreatment plant may still be utilized if another production company were to fill the space.

Also important to Malone is filling the void of lost jobs that will move away with the opening of the new plant. But one thing he stressed is that although Ocean Spray’s move is a major event, the city will be able to bounce back and potentially even be better off than before.

He compared the move to the concern residents felt when the Bordentown Military Institute closed in the ’70s, and how the city “weathered the storm.”

“We absorbed a facility that had probably a third of the town in some way, shape or form occupied by their facility, and you wouldn’t even know where it is now,” Malone said.

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