Nearly 7 acres of land along the White Horse Pike in Absecon that has sat dormant for 20 years looks to serve as the centerpiece of a downtown development plan that would add new businesses and ratables and net the city $1.7 million toward a new firehouse.
The development is one of several taking place along the White Horse Pike, a major highway that has lagged its cross-county sister road, the Black Horse Pike, in commercial growth.
But the White Horse Pike, or Route 30, is seeing a resurgence. Up and down the highway, projects have sprung up, including a residential development for seniors in Galloway Township, a Wawa in Egg Harbor City and a new addition to AtlantiCare in Hammonton.
Absecon wants to put to use the 6.6 acres of Memorial Field, which is behind the firehouse and parallel with the pike and New Jersey Avenue, and has lain dormant for about 20 years.
A developer, Absecon Urban Renewal LLC, c/o Wright Partners, has proposed building a Royal Farms store on the 2 acres where the current city firehouse is located at the pike, Route 9 and New Jersey Avenue, and a Firestone auto shop on part of Memorial Field.
A bank owns Memorial Field, but the city would sell the land of the firehouse, which was built in 1956, to the developer for $1.7 million and use that money toward building a new firehouse.
“This development is important to us because it will bring ratables to our city. We are always looking to lower taxes, so having quality ratables will entice people to come and settle in our city,” Mayor Kim Horton said.
Edwin Ross, 26, of Pleasanville, took over the space where Club 44 Tattoo used to operate and opened Rose Ink Studios on the pike in November. He picked this small city to open his business instead of Atlantic City because he feels the resort is saturated with at least six tattoo parlors.
Ross welcomes Royal Farms opening close to his business.
“I think it would be dope. It would definitely help other businesses, especially my own,” Ross said.
3:10 p.m. update: A more positive forecast is seen in South Jersey.
The new firehouse looks to be built across from City Hall, near Mill Road and New Jersey Avenue and the American Legion building.
“Where the firehouse is would be the gas pumps for the Super Royal Farms, and then, the building of the Royal Farms would sit further back onto Memorial Field,” said Councilman Chris Seher.
The city has been in discussions with Absecon Urban Renewal LLC about the property for four years, Seher said.
Absecon Urban Renewal has received approvals from the city and the Planning Board and has preliminary and final site plan approval for development in three phases, Seher said.
The first phase would be the Royal Farms and the Firestone. Phase Two would be additional pads fronting the pike with tenants to be determined. The third phase would front the New Jersey Avenue side of the property, Seher said.
“The city is working during the next two months to basically develop a firehouse replacement design,” Seher said. “They can’t obviously start on the Royal Farms construction until we build the replacement firehouse, which we anticipate to be a nine-month job.”