A colorful and detailed Master Plan and the restoration of Stacy Park near the Statehouse have some in Trenton dreaming of downtown redevelopment and revitalization of the city as a whole.
One of the centerpieces of the plans is the conversion of Route 29 into a rerouted, more pedestrian-friendly boulevard that snakes its way through a rebuilt Stacy Park and clusters of new structures and residences built along the Delaware River, on what is currently state offices and state parking lots.
With any plan such as this it needs to be asked if all of this construction and development is actually going to significantly improve a city like Trenton, which suffers from poverty and all of the social problems associated with it.
Sure, a lovely waterfront area with a newly reconstituted Stacy Park, new development, and a boulevard-style Route 29 sound great.
But will redeveloping the waterfront area bring people with disposable income into the city, not just to shop and dine, but to maybe make a home here, contributing to the tax base and the overall economic composition of the city?
Historically, such ambitious plans and developments don’t seem to have a very good history of actually delivering economic salvation to the state’s poorer urban areas.
When the state began a rapid expansion program following the industrial decline of Trenton earlier this century, the presence of more state workers and a rebuilt downtown of office buildings was supposed to replace Trenton’s declining industry and revive the city, but that didn’t really happen.
Instead the city was left with a downtown that bustles with activity from 9 to 5 on weekdays, and turns into a place that looks like it was hit by a neutron bomb on weekends and during non-work hours.
What also does not bode well for this latest Master Plan and associated development scheme is that much of the same lofty plans and ideas were contained in a similar development plan created for the city less than five years ago, yet nothing came of it.
Are whatever problems or obstacles that stopped those plans from moving forward still in place today?
The new plans certainly look good, but city officials need to be sure before millions of dollars are spent that such plans will actually help the city make significant economic progress towards climbing out of its current poverty-ridden state.