Township municipalities across the country are focusing on the year ahead as 2020 begins. The Sun sat down with Harrison Township Mayor Lou Manzo to discuss what the municipality has in store and what residents can expect for the new year.
One of the most significant projects in town is the December opening of the Inspira Medical Center in the Richwood section. The opening is expected to have a ripple effect on future area development.
Inspira officials have been in discussion with Manzo about starting the second phase of development in 2020 to complete a full campus, including additional medical office buildings. The hospital’s cancer center is expected to open by February, Manzo said.
The township committee approved a resolution in November authorizing a settlement agreement with Fair Share Housing Center, representing the first major step in the long-awaited Richwood project development expansion. The result is a plan that would allow Madison Marquette — the developer in charge of the project — to begin building. The settlement will be decided in court in January.
But even with legal issues expected to be settled, Manzo believes the presence of the new hospital will not only act as an incentive for Madison Marquette to begin building but also spark an economic expansion for local businesses in the area.
“The reason that [the hospital is] a game-changer … is it’s an economic engine,” Manzo explained. “If you’re just somewhere in close proximity to that hospital, your business is going to thrive just because of that traffic.”
But a major issue associated with economic development is the increase in traffic.
Residents have had concerns with the issue in the past, especially along Route 322, according to Manzo. In recent years, the addition of a bypass and widening of the route in Richwood resolved a longstanding traffic issue. But with the increase in development, the township is taking steps to ensure proper flow of traffic before it becomes an issue for residents. The mayor added that Harrison will not allow anything to be built without proper engineering expertise.
“Just with the hospital being out there, people were concerned,” said Manzo. “But again, there have been multiple traffic studies done.”
As a result of those studies, the township expects to see multiple road widenings and construction of new roads. For example, the entry road to the hospital — currently a dead end — will become a complete through road out to Ellis Mill Road in Glassboro.
Another plan being studied by the county will create yet another bypass road in Glassboro to take traffic off 322.
All this comes with the expectation that Madison Marquette will start building. Manzo stated that if everything goes according to plan, residents could see the first stages of construction by the end of 2020.
The project will include about 1,500 rooftops and a town center, filling the remainder of the township’s development area.