“Smart Growth Transforms a City”
Date: Monday, June 19 2006
(got a chuckle reading this article, in which Mayor Palmer touts a list of projects, which, while containing some notable successes, also includes a variety of projects that didn’t quite make it)
The City of Trenton has cultivated over a quarter billion dollars of privately funded redevelopment in the past year.
Most notable in Trenton’s recent new business attractions is Wachovia, which in January moved its regional headquarters from the suburbs to the city about a block away from Trenton’s Lafayette Yard Marriott hotel. When location, location, location was the question, the bank’s regional president Susanne Svizeny understood that Trenton was the answer. Within a 30-minute radius, Trenton’s labor supply exceeds more than 1.2 million – and that human resource rises to nearly three times that amount within a 45- minute distance.
Because continuing to attract more private industry is key to the city’s economic growth, Mayor Doug Palmer has been actively cultivating private development in New Jerseys capital city. In the past year, the city has announced over $250 million in privately funded development projects.
The city’s most ambitious redevelopment project is the Trenton Town Center, a $175 million mixed-use complex consisting of 35,000 square feet of retail, 170,000 square feet of Class-A office space, 275 residential condominiums and structured parking.The developer, Full Spectrum of New York, is going for a U.S. Green Building Council LEED designation of silver or better. The Trenton Town Center is expected to be the largest green complex of its kind. Construction is expected to begin in this fall.
Meanwhile, work is nearly completed on the redevelopment of the historic Broad Street Bank office building. Bayville Holdings is converting the once-neglected and deteriorating former office building into a mixed-use project consisting of 124 rental apartments with nearly 15,000 square feet of retail space. Bayville expects to complete the $35 million project by September.
Within the Mill Hill Historic District, both the newly constructed townhomes by Nexus Properties and Atlantis Properties’ adaptive reuse of the Labor Lyceum, sold quickly at market-topping prices.
Another Mill Hill project, The Whittaker, will offer 40 units of high end, newly constructed condominiums. The Concerned Pastors of Greater Trenton’s Community Development Corporation sought out the Leewood Realty Group as a joint venture partner. Michael Fink of Leewood says, “Purchasers will enjoy the embrace of a closely knit neighborhood and easy walk to the train station for commutes to New York or Philadelphia and points in between.”
Next up, the Ice House condominium project at 20 Swan Street in Chambersburg expects to deliver finished homes in August, in a converted industrial structure originally built for the Roebling family in 1899. Daniel Brenna, principal of Trenton Development Group, sees this project as the first of several, having already received approvals on 41 unit luxury-loft condos in the same neighborhood.
Small businesses also find Trenton a place to thrive. Brian Gill-Price, founder of ProServices, a technology consulting firm, is renovating the former Roebling Steel’s infirmary for its headquarters. It has attracted interest from other technology firms seeking to share the building upon its completion this summer. Gill-Price has dubbed his building “Trenton Makes Technology.”
On West State Street, the historic Roebling Mansion is being restored and expanded as the new headquarters of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.
Other commercial projects currently marketing space include Liberty Commons, by Matrix, offering retail and office space in a 60,000-square-foot building that is the new headquarters for Wachovia Bank in Central New Jersey.
Near both the Marriott hotel and the Statehouse, Woodrose Properties is completing two historic restoration projects, each totaling 12,000square feet. At41 West State Street, office tenants can lease upper level suites over retail, and on South Warren Street, the historic Golden Swan Tavern and several adjacent structures are being converted for a mix of retail, office and residential use. Occupancy will begin this fall.
Also in the pipeline is the redevelopment of a surface parking area adjacent to Trenton’s Sovereign Bank Arena as a new entertainment district. The $45-million, 250,000-square-foot development will contain a host of nightclubs, restaurants and retail establishments, a parking garage, an outdoor performance area for festivals, and 90 apartments. This new district, called The Foundry on 129, will provide additional eating and entertainment venues to the city’s residents and workforce and others in the Greater Trenton region.
Surface parking also is the focus of ongoing redevelopment plans for repositioning the Route 29 freeway and converting its downtown segment into a boulevard. Here, rather than the present asphalt acreage home to the cars of thousands of state workers, Trenton and the State Department of Transportation are working together to reclaim the neighborhood and riverfront access that once was such a priceless asset of the city. The city envisions this Delaware River area as home to open space, market-rate homes and waterfront commerce.
Many of the newest projects are small, infill developments that create a big impact without complicated assemblages of land or buildings. Small, entrepreneurial developers thrive in Trenton. Successful new projects have appealed to buyers and tenants specifically looking for a city environment.
Already a national leader in Brownfield redevelopment, Trenton now has its sights on becoming the model for Smart Growth via its adaptive reuse projects and reclamation of underutilized properties such as the surface parking lots. And, along with redevelopment comes the advent of increased passenger service into and out of the city along the South Jersey light rail line and the $52-million renovation project underway to completely redesign the Trenton Train Station. This station is located at the edge of the city’s central business district and directly adjacent to dense residential neighborhoods. The transition in property uses close to the station is key to realizing the pedestrian and bicycle-friendly environment that mark the transit village ideal.
Passengers arrive on foot from the host of residential neighborhoods in easy walking distance to the train station: from Mill Hill, Chambersburg, Villa Park and the Wilbur section. They drive in from Trenton’s outlying neighborhoods, its suburbs and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They arrive on the 200 trains that stop at the station each day. Some make additional rail connections. Others walk from the station to work in Trenton’s central business district. They make bus connections or hail one of the ever-present taxicabs .
“The infrastructure is here,” proclaims Palmer, “and the ability and interest in partnerships is, too. Our Department of Housing and Economic Development, in tandem with our Department of Inspections, works collaboratively with developers and business owners to smooth the path to the future.”