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.