Gloucester Township looks ahead

Mayor Mayer hopes to establish cyberbullying resources, an arts corridor and more in 2018.

In the new year, Mayor David Mayer aims to put Gloucester Township on the map — literally.

Encompassing seven ZIP codes that satisfy post office districts, the township itself, which is home to nearly 70,000 people, can seem geographically and figuratively ambiguous.

“The township suffers from an identity crisis, because of all the ZIP codes that we have,” Mayer said.

Throughout 2018, the township plans to expand its branding initiatives through social media, video campaigns and advertisements, such as installing more of the vibrant “Gloucester Township” posts that welcome travelers easing off the Route 42 exits.

With a concrete character, Mayer said the township can more easily establish itself as an enticing community to attract residents and businesses.

Economic development will continue to be a paramount objective, as there are commercial business plans in store for the Gloucester Township Premium Outlets, including the stretch of Black Horse Pike that leads to the shopping center starting at Church Street.

Local government hopes to transform that portion of the pike into an arts corridor. Building off of its 2014 refurbishing of Academy Hall, which is home to Mainstage Center for the Arts, Mayer says a black box theater will ideally break ground in a neighboring area by the Gloucester Township–Blackwood Rotary Branch Library.

“The reason, besides supporting the arts, is to bring people to that area,” Mayer said. “The more foot traffic there, the more possibility of growth.”

Shopping centers along Blackwood-Clementon Road will also receive new businesses, including the renovation of Commerce Square Shopping Center and the construction of a Royal Farms.

Along the lines of infrasture, Mayer hopes to repurpose the township’s two Nike Missile bases, including radar and launch parcels that were used by the United States military during the Cold War. One of the 20-acre bases is located on Cross Keys Road, while the other can be found in Erial.

Mayer says the possibilities for these bases are open-ended, but he hopes a developer will seek interest in the properties this year.

The township intends to revitalize another landmark by adding solar panels to the GEM Landfill, which Gloucester Township continues to monitor and treat for water pollution. The state took over operations in 2014.

“We’re going to take formerly the №1 superfund site in the nation, and we’re going to make it sustainable,” Mayer said.

Continuing to fulfill sustainable goals, the township plans to hire a developer in 2018 to finalize the remaining blueprints of the bike share program, which launched in August. Mayer says within the next two years, the route will eventually weave all the way to Runnemede.

Aside from physical fitness, the township strives to nurture the mental and emotional health of its residents this year.

In 2016, according to Mayer, Gloucester Township became the first town in the state to put a drug counselor in a municipal court. Throughout the past year, these counselors have started mentoring individuals just after they’ve been arrested for drug activity, instead of waiting until court dates. The township instends to partner with the county to start this particular practice across the region through Project SAVE (Substance Abuse Victimization Effort.)

“That is when the person (after being arrested) is probably at their lowest and maybe most amenable to getting help,” Mayer said. “Our goal is to get help for those individuals afflicted with that disease.”

Aiming to heal young people, local government recently submitted an application to receive $100,00 from the 2017 Mayor’s Challenge, sponsored by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which the township wants to use for cyberbullying education.

The competition encourages towns to recognize a problem and then, using the money, create a solution that can be implemented in other municipalities. In January, 35 cities will be selected for the grant.

In Mayer’s plan, the finances will benefit a series of courses informing parents and children about the effects of online harassment and eventually preventing the harassment. The digital interactives include a GT Cyber Safety License, the GT Cyber GO Application and a Cyber Innovation Center.

“We’ve seen an increase in crisis calls for juveniles. We’re tying that to cyberbullying, and we think there’s a correlation there,” Mayer said. “We’re not educating the kids well enough.”