At the 23rd annual Southern New Jersey Development Council Construction Forecast the theme was economics and entertainment. Its president, Marlene Asselta says the event is an opportunity for the business community to be alerted to projects happening in the next 12 to 18 months.
“There’s a lot of activity, commercial, retail, housing is starting to perk up again. It was down but it’s starting to perk up. So I would say generally for the state we’re hopeful, but for South Jersey we’re even more hopeful,” Asselta said.
Among the projects on the docket: the redevelopment of the former Echelon Mall in Voorhees Township.
“It’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to be a lot of hard work and very expensive, but we think the market is good and it seem to be right for that type of redevelopment,” said Mario DiNatale, Voorhees Township’s director of community and economic development.
DiNatale wants people to know there are opportunities for engineers, planners, and developers to redevelop the former retail mall into more of an entertainment destination.
“One of the things we’re looking to do with the bottom floor of Macy’s is potentially make it a culinary arts center,” he said.
Over in Burlington, Phil Abramson, the founder and CEO of Topology, is hoping to build a new mixed use development. He says they are looking to create housing, retail, a riverfront restaurant, hotel, and possibly even a water park.
“On the old McNeal Mansion and U.S. Pipe in Burlington City along the Delaware River waterfront,” Abramson said. “It’s a beautiful site and something that’s been sort of hidden from the public for 100 years.”
George Strachen spoke about projects coming down the line in Gloucester County.
“We’re currently out to bid for the academic building at Rowan. That’s a great project,” Strachen said.
Stimulation spending was also a topic of discussion. State Librarian Mary Chute explained the Library Construction Bond Act — a referendum that voters approved in 2017 — is in the works.
“It’s for library construction. It’s $125 million in general obligation bond to pay for 50% of projects that are approved. The projects could be brand new buildings, they could have be rehabilitation of buildings that are acquired to be libraries, they could be as simple as just making something ADA access,” Chute said.
Asselta calls South Jersey the awakening giant — a place beyond the beginning, not quite in the middle, but with activity that will only grow.