The End of the Road for the Cross Keys Scene

December 12, 2009

    While the Cross Keys Scene will continue to remain interested in the future development of the Cross Keys Road corridor, the end of the semester will also mean the end of the Cross Keys Scene.  Stories will no longer be posted on this site.

    During the past three months, the Cross Keys Scene reported on the Cross Keys Road corridor and its impact on the businesses, residents, and the municipalities of Gloucester and Winslow Townships, New Jersey.  One of the highlights from this site included a Nov. 7 interview with Gloucester Township Mayor-elect, Dave Mayer.  Mayer explained his plans for furthering economic development along the Cross Keys Road corridor by building commercial properties.  In addition, Mayer explained the need for better communication about the planning of the corridor with neighboring Winslow Township.

    The Cross Keys Scene also featured coverage of the construction of the Cross Keys Road Bridge and its impact on businesses and commuters.  In addition, the Cross Keys scene reported on the proposed building of a $22 million, 53,000 square-foot Army Reserve training facility on either the Gloucester Township or the Winslow Township side of Cross Keys and Kearsley roads.  Although the Cross Keys Scene  hoped to provide readers with a decision on the facility’s location, the Army has still not reached a decision on the site’s location.

    In an effort to provide a visual perspective of the Cross Keys Road corridor and to provide easier navigation through the many economic development projects reported on, the Cross Keys Scene featured an interactive Google map under the “A Visual Perspective of the Corridor” page of the site.

     The Cross Keys Scene would like to thank all involved in helping to shape the stories reported on during this semester.   We would especially like to thank all of our readers who helped the Cross Keys Scene achieve over 1,000 views.


Seven Areas Impacted by the Economic Development of the Cross Keys Road Corridor

December 12, 2009

    During the past three months, the Cross Keys Scene focused on the economic development of the Cross Keys Road corridor and its impact on the community.  Although the development of the corridor provides the creation of jobs, shopping convenience, and choice, there is a need for more community coordination.  The reasons for this include a lack of traffic planning, land use rules, and a lack of planning between the municipalities of Gloucester and Winslow Townships.  In a final effort to show the impact of the corridor, the Cross Keys Scene presents seven key areas most impacted by the development of the Cross Keys Road corridor and ideas from key Gloucester Township, New Jersey community officials on how to improve community planning.   

Gloucester Township Fire District Five.   

    In order to prepare for the increase volume of fire calls along the Cross Keys Road corridor, Gloucester Township Fire District Five took a series of steps,  according to Gloucester Township Fire District Fives Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, Barry Engelbert. “We have seen a 30 percent increase in calls since the development of the corridor began,” said Engelbert.   

    In addition to adding 24-hour in-station service to its residents, the Fire District expanded the Lambs Terrace Fire Company fire station.  Located at 1781 Sicklerville Road, the fire company serves the businesses and residents of Gloucester Township Fire District Five, including those along the Cross Keys Road corridor.  The completed $1.1 million improvement project that started over a year and a half ago added a second story to the building for fire personnel sleeping quarters as well as a new gym and offices.  According to Engelbert, “I think that the expansion of the station will show how important community planning is in dealing with the growth of the Cross Keys Road corridor.”   

Gloucester Township Fire District Five recently expanded the Lambs Terrace Fire Company fire station in order to prepare for the development of the Cross Keys Road corridor.

The Nike Base   

    Located at Berlin-Cross Keys and Williamstown-Erial roads, the over 40 acre site once served as a Nike missile defense base during the Cold War.  Now under ownership by Gloucester Township, overgrown brush and weeds replace the once standing missile silos and base barracks.  According to the Lakeside Business Park President and prospective bidder for the Nike Base property, Vincent Pennoni, the base went up for sale for commercial use by the township in 2006.  However, according to Pennoni, the sale fell through.    

    Gloucester Township Councilwomen-elect, Michelle Gentek, believes that the sale of the Nike site is crucial to the future of the growing corridor for bringing businesses and tax money to the township.  Gentek added, “It will be our job as township officials to aggressively market the Nike Base property, and I will work with the new Mayor in order to do that.”    

Councilwomen-elect, Michelle Gentek, believes that the over 40 acre Nike missile base at Berlin-Cross Keys and Williamstown-Erial roads needs to be aggressively marketed for commercial sale by Gloucester Township.

The Shoppes at Cross Keys   

    Located at Cross Keys Road and the Atlantic City Expressway, The Shoppes at Cross Keys  offers shoppers a varied selection of upscale stores.  Councilwomen-elect Gentek believes that Gloucester Township needs to bring in more high-end stores in order to attract consumers from out-of-town.  Gentek does not believe that the township has done enough to promote the corridor as a premier business and shopping center.  According to Gentek, “Promoting the Cross Keys Road corridor is key, and we have to promote it so that it is something special that people will want to come to.”   

    Gloucester Township Councilman, Frank Schmidt, believes that the township’s tax abatement program will help attract new businesses to the promenade.  This initiative allows a business to only pay an incremental percentage of taxes for the first five years after opening.  According to Schmidt, “That is an incentive for businesses to come here and get started.  It is very exciting for Gloucester Township and it is very exciting for the tax payers.”   

Gloucester Township Councilman, Frank Schmidt, believes that the township's tax abatement program will attract upscale businesses to the promenade.

Vacant Circuit City   

    Following the 2008 bankruptcy of the consumer electronics store, Circuit City, the store’s Gloucester Township location became vacant.  According to Councilwomen-elect Gentek, the township can not do anything with the property because the developer is under lease with the owner of the builder.    

    Councilman Schmidt believes that community planning needs to seek out businesses in order to attempt to get them to fill vacant properties in Gloucester Township.  However, Schmidt believes that the current economic recession may prevent the planning board from finding a tenant.  “With the economy so bad, things are moving as slow as possible until people become more confident to invest and try to open up new businesses and obtain key loans,” said Schmidt.    

Circuit City's Gloucester Township location went vacant when the national consumer electronics chain went bankrupt in 2008. Councilwoman-elect Gentek does not believe that the township can do much about finding a new tenant for the building.

 Lakeside Business Park   

    Located next to the Nike Base, the Lakeside Business Park opened in 2005.  When completed, the park will contain over 200,000 square feet of office space.  However, according to the Lakeside Business Park President, Vince Pennoni, more than half of the complex requires completion.  Pennoni hopes to continue construction early next year.  “I would estimate that construction of an additional three buildings would begin next March, and I expect to have everything done by next November,” said Pennoni.  In addition to the economy negatively impacting construction of Lakeside, Pennoni believes that Gloucester Township needs to reduce taxes in order attract businesses.   

    Evan Zweben, the senior associate for the real estate agency, Colliers Lanard & Axilbund, helps businesses find space at Lakeside.  He does not believe that the Cross Keys Road corridor will attract outside businesses.  According to Zweben, “Just like the stock market, the corridor boomed when things were good, and now when times are hurting you begin to come to the realization that the people with businesses along the corridor live in that area.  You are not really attracting any businesses from outside the area.”    

Over half of the Lakeside Business Park remains unfinished according to the developer of Lakeside, Vince Pennoni.

 Cross Keys Road at Wilton’s Corner   

    This section of Cross Keys Road contains a dip in the road.  According to Lambs Terrace firefighter Johnny Flinn, the strip of road creates numerous hazards.  “We get at least 20 fire calls per year because the dip in the road creates flooding when it rains,” said Flinn.  In addition, Flinn believes that the poor planning of Cross Keys Road creates dozens of motor vehicle accidents.  “I can not even tell you how many times we have been called out for accidents in front of Wilton’s Corner.  It begins to become an inconvenience after a while, and I just hope that the county finds a way to fix the road,” said Flinn.   

    Councilman Schmidt remains dedicated to working with Camden County Freeholders in order to receive funds to fix roads in Gloucester Township.   

According to Lambs Terrace firefighter, Johnny Flinn, the Wilton's Corner section of Cross Keys Road causes the fire company to respond to numerous floods and traffic accidents because of poor community planning.

The Winslow Side of Cross Keys Road   

    Councilman Schmidt and Councilwoman Gentek believe that better coordination between the municipalities of Gloucester and Winslow is vital in order to sustain the growth of the Cross Keys Road corridor.  Both officials believe that Gloucester Township can start by opening up communication with Winslow’s Mayor and council officials.    

    In 2004, Winslow passed a sewer moratorium.  Councilwoman-elect Gentek believes that the Gloucester Township side of the Cross Keys Road will develop much quicker than Winslow’s side of the corridor because of the municipality’s restriction on sewer connections.  Gentek added, “I think that makes it even more important to communicate with Winslow on the development.  We should do that primarily through our planning board and our county’s planning board.”   

    Councilman Schmidt agrees with Councilwoman-elect Gentek, and he hopes that better planning with Winslow will, “ make the corridor as efficient as possible for both communities and the commuters that travel Cross Keys Road between the Black and White Horse Pikes.”   

An undeveloped strip of land on the Winslow Township side of the Cross Keys Road corridor. Both Gloucester Township council officials Gentek and Schmidt believe that there needs to be better coordination between the two municipalities about the development of the corridor.

Update: Army Reserve Training Facility Decision Postponed for Third Time

December 4, 2009

    The Army Corp of Engineers postponed their decision on the location of a $22 million, 53,000 square-foot Army Reserve training facility on Cross Keys and Kearsley roads for a third time this year.  The Cross Keys Scene reported on Oct., 17 of this year that the Army had planned to make a final decision on the facility’s location by the end of this past October.
    The Gloucester Township, New Jersey side of Cross Keys Road remains the top choice for the Army, with a site across the street on the Winslow Township side as an alternative.  However, according to the Army Corp of Engineers chief public affairs officer, Todd Hornback, “We are still in the process of evaluating proposed locations for the facility.”
    According to Hornback, public comments are an important tool needed to help the Army make its final decision. “We value the public’s comments highly, so we are continuing to look at them in order to make the best decision possible,” said Hornback.
    The Army does not have an exact date when a decision will be made on the location of the facility.  According to Hornback, “Until we thoroughly review all public comments, no decision will be made.”

Cross Keys Road Bridge Nears Completion

December 3, 2009

    After almost nine months of construction, the construction of the Cross Keys Road Bridge will conclude on Dec., 22 of this year according to South Jersey Transit Authority’s project manager, Tom Canto.  The Cross Keys Scene first reported on the construction of the bridge on Oct. 10 of this year. 

    Located at the Atlantic City Expressway at Interchange 41, work on the bridge began this past April.   The SJTA widened the bridge from four to six lanes, in an effort to alleviate traffic congestion.  According to Canto, work is in the finishing stages.  “We still have a few areas of the bridge to pave, along with striping of the road and some minor landscaping around the bridge,” said Canto. 

    Four out of the six lanes of the bridge opened in late November.  Canto hopes to have the remaining two lanes opened prior to Dec. 22.  Canto added, “We have been able to remain on schedule during the entire construction process.”

    Canto believes that the expansion of the bridge will significantly reduce the amount of traffic on Cross Keys Road.  According to Canto, “I think that the widening of the bridge will ease traffic congestion for commuters along Cross Keys Road, and will make it easier to get onto the Atlantic City Expressway.”

The Cross Keys Road Bridge will be completed on Dec. 22 of is year.

Local Entrepreneur Opens Business Along Corridor

November 20, 2009

    While the Cross Keys Road corridor features numerous national businesses, a local entrepreneur decided to take advantage of the economic development along the Cross Keys Road corridor and open up his own franchise.  In May 2004, Gary Chernow, started his own independently owned franchise of the printing and shipping company, PostNet.  Chernow’s store is located at 521 Berlin-Cross Keys Road in the Acme shopping center in Gloucester Township, New Jersey.

    Prior to opening up his franchise, Chernow owned a restaurant for 20 years.  Chernow’s decision to enter the printing and shipping business results from his research about potential businesses along the corridor. “I live in the area, and when I saw what was happening with the corridor I decided to do some research to find out what type of store the corridor still needed.  I saw that there was not a printing and shipping store along the corridor, so I decided to open my own franchise,” said Chernow.

    Although other businesses along the corridor interviewed by the Cross Keys Scene believe that construction of the Berlin-Cross Keys Road Bridge impacts business, Chernow sees the construction as a way to take an aggressive stance towards finding new business.  According to Chernow, “If the bridge is an issue, I just have to go out and get business somewhere else such as in Winslow.”

    In addition to offering printing and shipping, Chewnow’s PostNet shop provides a wide selection of services including  notary, office supplies, and Graphic Design.

The owner of the Gloucester Township franchise of PostNet shown in this photo, Gary Chernow, offers a wide selection of services.

Stanbery Development Reaches out to Local Businesses

November 20, 2009

    The Ohio-based developer of the Shoppes at Cross Keys, Stanbery Development, plans to obtain its remaining leases by reaching out to local businesses.  Located at Cross Keys Road and The Atlantic City Expressway in Gloucester Township, New Jersey, the Shoppes at Cross Keys opened this past May.  The shopping plaza provides a variety of shops and restaurants. 

    According to Stanbery Development’s Asset Manager, James Westfall, the shopping center already contains 80 percent tenant occupancy.  For the remaining leases, Stanbery Development plans to obtain leases from local businesses.  Over half of the final composition of the shops will deal in high-end men and women’s clothing.  “The final total make-up of the center will be 65 percent national upscale clothing retail for men and women,” said Westfall.  The rest of the center will include restaurants, specialty stores, and local businesses. 

    According to Westfall, a key challenge facing local entrepreneurs looking to open a business deals with the current economy.  “We are lucky that the majority of our national tenants signed leases prior to the economic recession, but unfortunately for a lot of local businesses it is going to be hard to find and receive finances during this economic recession.”  However, Westfall believes that Stanbery Development will be able to reach 100 percent tenant occupancy during the next couple of months.

    Westfall thinks that the shops location next to the Atlantic City expressway will attract a significant volume of new customers to Stanbery Development’s property.  In addition, Westfall also believes that the completed construction of the Berlin-Cross Keys Road in December will attract customers from neighboring Winslow Township.  According to Westfall, “I think that once the bridge is completed, a lot of residents from Winslow that may have been cut off during the bridge’s construction will be more inclined to want to come over and check out our shops.”

    The fast food restaurant chain, Bok Bok Fresh, and the women’s apparel store, Coldwater Creek, will open at the Shoppes at Cross Keys this December. 

The Shoppes at Cross Keys Road features a variety of shops and restaurants

A Visual Perspective of the Cross Keys Road Corridor Will Launch This Saturday

November 19, 2009

    The Cross Keys Scene will launch an interactive Google Map this Saturday, Nov. 21 on the “Visual Perspective of the Corridor” page of the site.  The purpose of the map will be to show readers the amount of area that the corridor covers as well as to provide readers with an easy way of navigating through the various economic projects featured on The Cross Keys Scene.