Woowich Township Regional Center – Your Exit to Success
Matt Blake, director of community development for Woolwich Township, shares with us a summary of recent progress and opportunities for development within the 322 corridor in Woolwich Township. Check back here for updates and more information about the project in coming months.
Exit 2 of the New Jersey Turnpike represents the only undeveloped (2.5 square miles) interchange remaining in the state, and offers enormous opportunities for highway and destination-based growth.
Prior to the Recession, Woolwich Township made national headlines as the fastest-growing community in the northeast, if not the entire eastern seaboard. In order to not become the “poster- child” for sprawl development in New Jersey, with its many impacts to community resources sound fiscal health, the township adopted a local Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program in 2008, along with other necessary land use controls and comprehensive development standards. This enabled Woolwich Township to secure a State-Plan endorsed, “Smart Growth Center” designation for an area approximately 1,576 acres in size that partly serves as the TDR Receiving Area.
This Regional Center is strategically located along both sides of U.S. 322 and the NJ Turnpike. In addition, Rt. 322, which bisects the town, is the only east-west corridor in the state with easy access to and from the Commodore Barry Bridge and Blue Route, Rt. 295, the turnpike and Rt. 55 to the east. Exit 2 of the turnpike represents the only undeveloped (2.5 square miles) Turnpike Interchange remaining in the state, and as such, offers enormous opportunities for highway and destination-based growth.
Woolwich is also one of only 20 state-designated, “Smart Growth” Centers in New Jersey. Its Center contemplates a mixture uses including a range of compact housing types, mixed use, retail, office/commercial, hotel, light industry, parks and other uses. The Center is already attracting major economic activity. For example, the Wolfson Group Inc. has GDP approval for 1.5 million S.F. of retail space, which will serve as a neo-traditional center-based, destination shopping area that will provide many economic benefits to the region. In October, 2013, the developer obtained final plan approval for his first phase of development, Woolwich Commons, which entails a 544,459 S.F. retail project to be located adjacent to exit 2 of the turnpike along 322 that is scheduled to open in 2016.
The township recently completed a state-required 5-year review of its Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. Given the many changes that have taken place over the past several years, the Twp saw the review as an opportunity to rethink the configuration of the both the TDR Receiving Area and other land uses within the Center. The drivers were primarily market changes following the Recession, the loss of about 20% of TDR credits due to conventional farmland preservation, and new opportunities for more effectively fitting various land uses together in a manner that will be more attractive to developers, businesses and home-buyers alike. In addition, the proposed changes seek to foster a smarter, more center-based, walkable community that saves more open space and significantly reduces impacts to the community. These changes will be refined for implementation in a Master Plan Re-examination process to commence later this fall. In the weeks leading up to the Reexamination, the township will be working with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to further examine a range of uses and their integration within the Center in a manner that will further stimulate economic activity, and foster strategic industry clusters, tourism, mixed use, and higher paying jobs.
Another key area of focus for the township is to secure water and sewer for the Center. In 2012 the Twp attained state approval of its Wastewater Management Plan (WMP), which enabled the Woolwich Commons retail project to move forward. At present negotiations are underway for a public and private agreement between Aqua New Jersey, the Wolfson Group, Woolwich Township and future developers, for both a short and long term solution for sewer and water. The first priority is to have a sewer conveyance system to the Logan Treatment Plant installed as soon as possible in order to facilitate the Woolwich Commons project.
In order to provide future capacity beyond that obtained by the Wolfson Group, the Twp is exploring participating in the upsize of this conveyance systems so that it can be used in the future to convey sewer flow from the western and central portions of the Rt. 322 corridor to either the Logan Township MUA or to other locations and options being considered. The project costs not directly funded by the Wolfson Group and NJ Aqua would be administered by the Twp through the establishment of a sewer credit system for future builders. Under this scenario, developers would receive a refund per unit installation from Aqua New Jersey, which would help defray costs associated with a municipal sewer credit system. Planning and installation could be carried out by either Aqua New Jersey or developers, although the Franchise would retain oversight of the project.