By KATHY CHANG
WOODBRIDGE — Dave & Busters, Wendy’s and Arizona Beverage Company are some of the businesses making their way into the township as economic development remains the main focus for township officials in 2017.
Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac addressed the Woodbridge Metro Chamber of Commerce at his 10th annual State of the Township at the Renaissance Hotel & Conference Center in Iselin on Jan. 31.
McCormac said Amy Bellisano, general manager at Woodbridge Center Mall, was instrumental in landing Dave & Busters, which will make its debut in New Jersey on the upper wing near the Sears Department store at the mall in the future.
Dave & Busters is an American restaurant and entertainment business chain offering a full-service restaurant and video arcade with 90 locations across the country.
In 2007, McCormac came into office laying out a vision.
“We talked about being business friendly and talked about working with the school district and we talked about quality of life, and today those are still our core themes,” he said.
McCormac said warehouse projects have continued to boost the township’s economy with hundreds of new jobs and cleaned-up sites.
“Pantheon will renovate an old warehouse on the corner of Rahway Avenue and Randolph Avenue and build a new one,” he said. “Sitex will do the same in Port Reading on Blair Road. Arizona Iced tea will also finally break ground on their nearly 1-million-square-foot warehouse and manufacturing facility in Fords.”
McCormac said Penrose Properties has been named the redeveloper for the former site of the warden’s residence at a prison in Avenel where they will build 100 apartments with 25 percent being specifically for the developmentally disabled population.
“We anticipate that the rest will be marketed to families with special-needs children,” he said.
Right across the street is the closed Developmental Center, which sits on 50 acres. McCormac said they hope to turn the center into a facility with a health-care theme.
The mayor said the 100 acres of vacant property in Sewaren off Pennval Road is finally seeing some action as a redeveloper has reached an agreement to buy one of the larger of eight parcels, which township officials hope will be the impetus for other owners to sell.
McCormac said Route 1 continues to see plenty of action with the start of construction of the strip mall next to the Avenel Firehouse.
The Quick Chek on Route 1 and Avenel Street will soon move across the street in place of vacant buildings and land used only for equipment storage.
Wendy’s is in the final stage of planning and is expected to open a new location between Route 1 north and south in Iselin.
The former Bud’s Hut and Seafood restaurant site, which closed in August 2015, lost McDonald’s as a tenant; however, McCormac said they believe other interested tenants will follow.
The Holiday Express has interest from tenants for land on either side of the Star/City Motel site and will become a La Quinta Hotel.
“The owners of two motels on the northbound side of Route 1 in Avenel are actively working on a redevelopment project that will remove additional eyesores from our landscape,” he said.
Township officials are continuing to work on two major transit village projects in Avenel at the former General Dynamics site and downtown Woodbridge.
“The last thing I thought I would be doing as mayor when I was elected 10 years ago was pushing apartment projects in town,” he said. “But the fact is that if we do not bring people with incomes to our transit villages — the walking wallets — then the transit village concept will fall short. All of the towns around us are doing it, and if we sit still they will bring residents and restaurants and shops to their towns instead.”
McCormac said the Avenel Arts transit village was a dream 10 years ago through his chief of staff Caroline Ehrlich’s vision.
The Avenel Arts Village will include a Performing Arts Center with 200 seats and a restaurant.
“We have hired a three-time Emmy winner, Anthony Wilkinson, who will team with the Music Man of Woodbridge, Bill Brandenburg, to bring plays and concerts and art exhibits and dance recitals and poetry readings to a facility that should have the lights on nearly every day of the year,” said McCormac. “Avenel will be one of the hottest places in Central Jersey in a few short years.”
In Downtown Woodbridge, Prism Development is nearly ready to start building luxury apartments on the Rug’s & Riffy’s Bar and Grill/Quick Chek site on Green Street and Rahway Avenue.
“At least three other projects are on the drawing board, and in a few years the entire landscape of our downtown will be enormously enhanced,” said McCormac.