HomeVoorhees NewsRoute 73, “the medical mile,” continues to grow

Route 73, “the medical mile,” continues to grow

Route 73, “the medical mile,” continues to grow

Route 73 in Voorhees is described as “the medical mile.” Virtua Hospital, a $600 million project, opened its doors in May 2011, creating hundreds of jobs, generating revenue and improving the sewer infrastructure.

But Virtua and other medical facilities are not the only inhabitants of the Route 73 corridor.

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According to Mayor Michael Mignogna, the campus has turned into an “economic magnet,” attracting businesses to Route 73 and other parts of Voorhees.

Mignogna said the sewer improvements also played a large role.

Economic Development Manager Michael Marchitto said Virtua attracted more business to Voorhees, and the business atmosphere on Route 73 is beginning to grow.

“The corridor has really developed over a 10-year period,” he said, adding plans for Route 73 were carefully constructed.

NJDOT has improved the road since the hospital moved to Route 73.

Traffic signals and lanes were modified, a jug handle was constructed, left turn lanes were created at Dutch Town and Kresson roads and more, according to NJDOT spokesman Tim Greeley.

Greeley said the project was estimated to cost $6.5 million and was completed last fall.

A Route 73 corridor team, an organization created to help beautify the roadway, planned walkways, paths, landscaping and more to help attract people to the area.

Virtua owns property from Dutchtown Road to Bowman Drive.

“Virtua pieced the lots together very methodically in order to put this project in play,” Marchitto said.

Adding to the “medical mile,” the hospital formed a partnership with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, bringing a children’s hospital to Voorhees, as well as opening a Health and Wellness Center.

Brandywine Senior Living Facility, a $28 million project, is under construction next to Virtua, Powerback Rehab Facility recently opened, and South Jersey Radiology is preparing to open at the former American Fitness site, Mignogna said.

“They are there to support a lot of the people that go into the hospital and come out for rehabilitation,” Marchitto said. “It works hand-in-hand, how business is spurred by other business.”

Other businesses such as Verizon, which recently opened a 4,000-square-foot facility in Cooper Plaza, Jake’s Way Back Burgers and Celebrity Tanz are a few other businesses recently added to the area.

In March, there was a groundbreaking for a 100-room Hampton Inn. The hotel will bring a banquet hall, restaurant and liquor license, adding to the township’s revenues.

Currently on the Route 73 corridor is Raymour & Flanigan, Lowe’s, Kohl’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Marshalls, Rite Aid and more.

Two pad sites were built in the Marshalls parking lot, aiding in the expansion of the shopping center.

The empty lots would hopefully be filled with “ancillary businesses,” such as coffee shops, convenience stores, dry cleaners, hamburger places and more.

America’s Best Contacts and Eye Glasses is fitting into a building right now, Marchitto said.

“With the expansion of Route 73, there are accessory businesses that need to aid the people who work there, the people who go there. I think it’s really starting to become a natural progression,” Marchitto said.

Shopping plazas such as Eagle Plaza and Copper Plaza are filling out and the old Rite Aid location would hopefully be “backfilled,” or occupied, by another business, Marchitto said.

The motto “Live Voorhees, Shop Voorhees” goes for the Route 73 corridor as well as the “interior” of the township.

He said “Restaurant Row” is shaping out with six restaurants and is still growing.

New and successful businesses add to the township’s revenue, but also open employment opportunities. Marchitto said more businesses mean more employment for students and residents looking for part-time work.

The VBA, EDC and the Voorhees Retention and Expansion Task Force are working on economic and job growth in Voorhees.

In 2012, approximately 88 new businesses opened in Voorhees, creating approximately 890 new jobs.

Currently, Voorhees has between 1,400 and 1,500 businesses, and the VBA membership is growing, he said.

The township is also looking at becoming certified under the International Economic Development Council — a nonprofit membership organization that provides necessary tools for communities to improve and expand economic development.

Although businesses are popping up in Voorhees and on Route 73, Marchitto said empty storefronts bring concern to many residents.

He said when it comes to locations such as the old Bally Total Fitness on White Horse Road, the gym was bought out by LA Fitness, consolidated and moved to Somerdale.

“The owner of the building still has a lease and LA Fitness does not want that lease to be relinquished because they don’t want any other gym moving in,” he said, adding the township is feverishly trying to get empty properties such as this one filled, but if they are paying the lease, there is not much they can do.

As for Route 73, Marchitto said when it is filled with businesses, he would “do a happy dance.”

With outside forces constantly affecting the business world, it’s difficult to keep properties filled long term.

He said the Business Retention Task Force and township economic development teams will continue to work on economic development long after all properties on Route 73 are filled.

“We don’t leave any stone unturned,” Marchitto said.

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