Looking ahead: 2018 will be a year of visual progression in Harrison Township

Development projects forecasted to come to fruition, make headway in the new year

The new year will be a year of visual progress in Harrison Township, with many development projects expected to break ground or accelerate in construction in 2018.

According to Mayor Louis Manzo, while the Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill is projected to be complete in September 2019, substantial advancements from the ground up are anticipated on the 100-acre property at the Route 55 and Route 322 interchange in the new year. Additionally, Manzo said, Rowan University recently announced preliminary plans for a 300-acre sports complex at the Rowan West Campus site on the northside of Route 322. The existing South Jersey Technology Park, which is located on the north side at this time, will become a sports facility, while the Technology Park will be moved to the south side of Route 322 near the incoming hospital.

Commercial projects are expected to come to fruition in the new year, such as the liquor store within the Mullica Hill Commons plaza, which is anticipated to be operational by mid-2018. Also, the Naples Ristorante and Pizza bar and tavern expansion on Main Street will become a reality, with an expected completion date toward the end of the summer or early fall.

While there are discussions to move forward with the Richwood Town Center redevelopment project, Manzo said a top priority in the new year is to continue the township’s aggressive approach in reducing abandoned houses, particularly in the Richwood redevelopment area.

“The property maintenance initiative we’ve taken is very aggressive,” Manzo said.

According to Township Administrator Mark Gravinese, the Abandoned Project started with approximately 200 neglected homes in Harrison Township, four of which were abandoned for more than 11 years and had never even been moved into. By the end of 2017, Gravinese said, the township had about 162 remaining.

“In the municipal court, we’re handling the maintenance — making sure they cut the grass — and the banks hire people for this work,” Gravinese said. “They’re paying their taxes, they’re paying the fees to the county, they’re paying fees to us to register and we’re still having this struggle.”

According to Gravinese, Township Solicitor Brian Duffield has been working on another approach with the superior courts. Gravinese said the township had entered into a shared service for home inspections, where the surveyors have a vested interest in the properties by make a bid to the judge to fix the homes and put them back on the market.

“We’re about as aggressive as you can get,” Gravinese said.

Weather will determine the completion of the ongoing sidewalk projects throughout Harrison Township, Manzo said. In the end, the sidewalks will connect from Folwell Lane on the west side of Main Street and Route 77 to the crosswalk leading to Shoprite on Bridgeton Pike. Additional sidewalks will also connect from the Old Mill on North Main Street to the pond on Route 322.

Sidewalks are expected to continue on the opposite side of the pond to connect to the subdivisions at Mullica Hill West, from Woodstown Road to Main Street, however these will be constructed by the developer as projects are completed.

Aside from the sidewalks, traveling by foot may become a lot easier in 2018 with the addition of a bike and pedestrian path that would, upon completion, potentially connect Harrison Township to Glassboro and Washington Township.

According to Manzo, a study was conducted in 2013 for the concept of a “walkable community” through the county. In 2017, the county budgeted for the engineering portion of the plan in Harrison Township, Manzo said, therefore he is hopeful the 2018 county budget will continue to include funding for the first segment to be assembled.

If the county were to budget for the first portion of the bike and pedestrian path, residents would have the ability to begin at the old mill, looking over Mill Road at the trellises in the woods. From there, Manzo said, a “boardwalk-type bridge” is envisioned to travel through the woods, onto the Route 322 Bypass and connect to William Wilt Park. Through the park, Manzo said, walkers and bikers would move through a winery, into Richwood through the Rowan University property and eventually connect to the existing Glassboro path, which joins a path in Washington Township.

“You would be able to, theoretically, get on a bike or walk on Main Street and end up, off road, to Washington Township,” Manzo said. “That really opens up our community.”

The county will vote on its 2018 budget in the spring.

Upon the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, residents in Harrison Township will have the ability to reflect and remember at what will be the new 9/11 Memorial site on Main Street.

In the fall, the committee voted unanimously to designate land at the Mullica Hill Baptist Church, located at 18 S. Main St., for the memorial site, which will feature artifacts from the Twin Towers in New York City, Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

“It will be a centerpiece of our downtown; for our veterans in the community, that’s a big deal,” Gravinese said. “It can be a gathering place, but also a place if someone wants to go in solace and have a memorable moment.”

Gravinese said technicalities of the site are still being worked out with Duffield, however the project is expected to get underway in early 2018.