Mayor’s Message: A look back at the 2010s

In this week's Mayor's Message, Mayor Louis Manzo discusses the major projects and improvements of the last decade

These are busy times in Mullica Hill, and considering we are entering a new decade, it seems appropriate to look back on the past 10 years before touching on what the future holds. What’s changed? First, our community physically looked different as we entered the last decade. On Jan. 1, 2010, the Route 322 bypass didn’t exist yet. The long-needed infrastructure improvement would open in 2012 and be named the Regional Transportation Program of the Year by the Delaware Regional Planning Commission later that year. Numerous other road improvements and traffic signals were added in the coming years and traffic remains a top priority in everything we do. Yes, we are aware of the southbound traffic issues on Main Street and we are finalizing coordinated plans with the County and State, as I write, to improve that through traffic signal timing synchronization methods.

By the way, Steve Sweeney wasn’t the NJ Senate President entering 2010, but was sworn into that role in mid-January of that year. When he takes that oath again later this month, he will become the longest-tenured Senate President in New Jersey’s history. I mention that here because that relationship has been invaluable and served our community well this last decade.

The current township Public Works building didn’t exist (though it was designed) and the new Police Department facility wasn’t even a thought entering 2010. The William Wilt Soccer Complex would soon become known as one of the best facilities in South Jersey and a cornerstone of our great youth recreational programs. Inspira Health system wouldn’t exist until the merger of South Jersey Hospital and Underwood later in the decade. Now, they stand as a distinguished provider of healthcare in the region with the new medical and cancer center in Mullica Hill. Oh, and the best community event in Gloucester County hadn’t been born yet, as Lights on Main was created in 2013. Looks at us now!

Let’s also remember that the last decade began in a deep recession that would last for years. In hindsight, this was a good thing for the development of our community. The “forever-discussed” Richwood project was already in the works back then, but economic factors had shelved its progress. This gave us a chance to evaluate the growth we knew would come and tweak our town’s masterplan to avoid the “sprawl” type of growth that the state is infamous for.

Harrison was a “dry” town in 2010 (since Prohibition), and now we have both a liquor store and pub/bar. Amazon was beginning to affect the way we shopped and had 30,000 employees back then. Today, with 700,000 employees transacting about 50% of all online purchases worldwide, they have changed the way we shop. This impacts our retail development in town.

Unfortunately, I’m realizing that space limits me in providing a lot of detail on what’s coming, so I’ll write about that soon. But as a teaser, by late January, the developer in Richwood will have completed all the legal requirements (two years’ worth of work!) to actually move forward with that project in 2020. We are finalizing details for an age-restricted development on the north side of town that will include the transformation of a Main Street property into a wonderful new restaurant and we will press the owner to move forward with the approved gas station at the old Oscar Jenkins site.

More to come………