Mayor Anthony Minniti announced that the township has reached another re-development milestone
Mayor Anthony Minniti announced that Cinnaminson Township has reached another re-development milestone. A more than ten acre tract, bound by Route 130 South and Highland Avenue, has been the target of Township redevelopment efforts for more than a decade.
Home to the Garden State Inn, Friendly’s Restaurant, and a vacant parcel commonly referred to as “The Azalea Farm,” this important commercial area has not attracted any real interest, but an innovative strategy has helped reverse this area’s fortunes.
“Cinnaminson has reached an agreement of sale for the Garden State Inn”, Minniti said. “Concurrently, Cinnaminson is finalizing and prepared to sign an agreement with German grocery giant, Lidl, to open a new location at the Garden State Inn site.”
Formal resolutions authorizing Minniti’s signature on the agreements will be on Cinnaminson’s Jan. 23 Township Committee meeting agenda.
Minniti credited the efforts of the Township’s economic development team, headed by past Cinnaminson Mayor Michael Minton, for helping bring this project to fruition. “Mayor Minton, along with our economic development team-past Mayors and current Committeemembers John McCarthy and William “Ben” Young as well as Township Administrator Michael King-have been working on this deal for over a year,” Minniti said.
Significant hurdles, however, nearly ended the project late last spring.
“The town was working with a regional developer who shared our vision for the site,” Minniti said. “It seemed that as the project was nearing the finish line, it began to bog down, which is never a good sign.”
Cinnaminson’s redevelopment team, however, put their shared fifty years of experience to work.
“When calls were not being returned, I believed the project’s future was in real jeopardy,” Minton said. “So, we called an immediate subcommittee meeting to see if we could develop a strategy.”
At Mayor Minniti’s request, representatives from Lidl agreed to one final meeting.
“I knew it would take bold action to bring Lidl back to the table,” Minniti said.
Minniti credits Young as one of his closest economic development advisors.
“We drew from our years of experience making these projects happen,” Young said. “When the Mayor asked my opinion of the plan, I fully endorsed it.”
The plan allowed Cinnaminson Township Committee to assume the role of “developer” in assembling control of the parcels under common ownership. This would facilitate the sale of the largest parcel, the Garden State Inn, to Lidl.
“Cinnaminson Township Committee designated itself to serve as the Township’s Redevelopment Authority,” Township solicitor John Gillespie said. “That decision creates the opportunity for the Committee to take bold steps in the furtherance of the town’s redevelopment vision.”
What was anticipated to be the township’s last meeting with Lidl suddenly became the first of many.
“The plan allowed the township to use its bonding capacity to gain control of the needed parcels and transfer, or flip them to developers. The town’s costs will be reimbursed by the developers of the project so there is no burden on our taxpayers,” McCarthy said.
There is a tremendous upside to removing the Garden State Inn from Cinnaminson’s Route 130 Corridor, according to the township.
“At 97 rooms, the Garden State Inn alone has more rooms than all of the previous Motel Row establishments combined,” Administrator and Director of Public Safety Michael King said. “The town is forced to commit significant resources to deal with crime and other ancillary issues generated by the Garden State Inn.”
McCarthy agrees with King’s assessment.
“The Garden State Inn is a persistent problem,” McCarthy Said. McCArthy also serves as committee’s public safety liaison.
“We have to patrol the Garden State Inn every day. Criminal incidents range from petty crime all the way up to drugs, prostitution, and weapons offenses. I cannot understate the importance of having The Garden State Inn closed,” King said.
Business Insider describes Lidl as a highly competitive German grocery store that is a cross between Walmart and Trader Joe’s.
“Trader Joe’s would not consider opening a location in Cinnaminson, so we’re thrilled to bring a new grocer to town, especially when they’re considered a top competitor of Trader Joe’s,” Minniti said.
Monday’s signing of the agreements represents the most important step in the redevelopment process. A concept plan for the project has been drafted and informally approves and an official redevelopment and final design plan will be drafted in the coming weeks. Joining Lidl is Friendly’s Restaurant.
“Offering Friendly’s the ability to be a part of this project was a priority,” Young said.
The Township anticipates formal approval hearings to begin by this summer. Minniti says he realizes the importance of this milestone.
“We refused to let our vision for this site die,” Minniti said. “ I couldn’t be more proud of our team and their effort,”