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Lawrence mayor reports on ‘State of the Township’

In Lawrence Township, it’s not the three R’s that count. It’s the three P’s of people, planet and profit that mean the most.

That was the message Mayor Christopher Bobbitt delivered in his State of the Township remarks at the Lawrence chapter of the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mayor’s Breakfast last week.

The “people” are the township employees and the residents they serve, Bobbitt said. After years of doing more with less, the Township Council has added another police officer and additional employees in various departments.

The second “p” is planet, according to Bobbitt, Lawrence is one of a handful of towns that offers a curbside organic waste collection program. The township has earned top marks from Sustainable Jersey and the mayor wants to capitalize on it by continuing to encourage more walking, biking and recycling.

The municipal buildings have undergone an energy audit to qualify for energy efficiency upgrades through the state’s Clean Energy Program, and Sustainable Lawrence is reaching out to the business community to take advantage of similar measures. A state program would pay for up to 70 percent of the cost of improvements, Bobbitt said.

The third “p” – profit – is key. The township depends on property taxes to help pay for the services residents have come to expect, the mayor said. The bottom line, he said, is the bottom line, a strong ratables base.

Fortunately, Lawrence is an attractive community for businesses, from A to Z, or Amalfi’s to Z Farm, Bobbitt said, adding it is a town that is on the move to become a more sustainable community that supports its small businesses and its corporate businesses.

One of those corporate businesses is Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which recently moved into a new office building on Princeton Pike at Lewisville Road. Its main campus on Route 206 will be expanded, Bobbitt said.

“Like many of our businesses in town, BMS is a wonderful corporate partner that works with many of our nonprofits in town,” the mayor said.

One of those nonprofit organizations is the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, which is a 20-plus mile biking and pedestrian path that connects Lawrence and Hopewell townships.

The Village of Lawrenceville continues to attract visitors to patronize its many thriving restaurants, Bobbitt said. Down the road in the Eldridge Park neighborhood, steps are being taken to clean up the former Pit Stop building on Route 206/Lawrence Road.

Hopping across town to the Lawrence Shopping Center on Brunswick Pike, its new owners are going to update the facade and bring in new tenants, Bobbitt said. Cooper Pest Control has moved into a former movie theater/fitness gym, and a former furniture store is now home to a company that makes and sells high-end dance costumes, he said.

The Quaker Bridge Mall and the Mercer Mall have added more buildings for new tenants. Nearby, Costco continues to do well at its location on Quakerbridge Road near Lawrence Station Road, according to the mayor.

Two hotels are in the works, Bobbitt said. The Hilton Garden Inn is under construction at the Princeton Pike Corporate Center, and the Sleepy Hollow Motel on Brunswick Pike is slated to be demolished so an extended-stay hotel can be built in its place.

Circling back to the Princeton Pike Corporate Center on Princeton Pike, Bobbitt said there is land earmarked for the development of a combination of market rate housing and low- and moderate-income housing at the rear of the office park.

Affordable housing also may be built at the Quaker Bridge Mall and the Lawrence Shopping Center, based on an overlay that would permit residential uses in a commercial zone.

“Another desire of mine is to look at sites throughout the township that have been under-performing for years, sites where businesses just can’t seem to get going, or sites that no one ever thinks about leasing,” the mayor said.

Wrapping up his remarks, Bobbitt said he hoped the attendees would have a better understanding of what is happening in Lawrence and also understand the township is on the move to become a more sustainable community that supports its business community.

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