Montgomery Township has officially broken ground on a new comprehensive municipal building complex that is scheduled to be completed in 2022.
The new municipal center will be more than 62,000 square feet and include a new Somerset County library branch.
Montgomery elected officials, together with officials from Somerset County, placed shovels in the ground wearing ceremonial hard hats to kick off the new project on Oct. 15.
Montgomery’s new complex on Headquarters Park Drive is a little more than 3 miles away from the current municipal building in use on Van Horne Road.
Township Administrator Donato Nieman said that the current municipal building used by the township does not have sufficient space for employees and services.
“Montgomery was a rapidly growing municipality. It needed a building that could provide a space for the employees but the community,” he said. “The current building the original part of it was built in the 1960s and had an addition added in the 1980s and even 10 years later the addition was insufficient given the demand for services and increase in the population.”
According to data from Somerset County and the U.S. Census Bureau, Montgomery’s population has increased from 7,360 in the 1980s to 23,124 as of 2019.
The 45-acre site for the new municipal building complex is located at the corner of Route 206 and Orchard Road. The location used to be the former site of the corporate offices of ConvaTec.
“The first time I walked through this site and went through the buildings that were here was back in 2013. It was a period of two-and-a-half years working with the township committees at that time and convincing them with their support to acquire this site,” Nieman said. “ConvaTec was asking $14 million for this property and we purchased it for $5.9 million. Then we were able to hire architects and work with the county, because of their AAA bond rating, we are Aa1. We worked with them on financing and with their architects to help design this complex.”
The complex will feature a new 20,000-square-foot Somerset County Library, municipal offices, the municipal police department, and contain 11 formal meeting rooms. There are also going to be green spaces and outdoor meeting places, which include a rain garden.
“The county worked with us hand in glove. It was smooth and very harmonious,” Nieman said. “A comprehensive site was always the idea, a place where the community could gather. It is near public transportation, near our schools and also be on signalized intersection on Route 206.”
The police department is to share the first floor of the new building with the new library and public meeting rooms. The municipal administration offices are on the second floor, along with additional meeting rooms not present on the first floor.
Montgomery secured a 30-year loan of $35 million with an interest rate of 1.75% to finance the project working through the Somerset County Improvement Authority (SCIA), a shared services program providing an alternative funding mechanism for municipalities. The township will be paying $1.9 million annually towards the loan for the project.
“We are thinking about the next several decades in Montgomery and we need a place where we can learn celebrate and join together as a community. That is what exactly what this space is all about,” Montgomery Township Mayor Sadaf Jaffer said. “It is difficult to take the plunge and make such an investment, but is a necessary and important investment needed right now. This has been many years and decades in the making.”
There had been town hall meetings to receive feedback from residents, a design subcommittee established to help get to the final design of the project.
“A project of this magnitude is a labor of love. A library is such a beautiful institution to create. We are a growing community with a lot of families and seniors and a lot of people who want the resources a library provides,” she added. “When this center opens it will be the center of the community. This will be where the government meets and where you go for library services and events and hopefully even concerts.”
The addition of the new library to the complex evolved over the course of developing the project. The library portion of the project will have small meeting rooms for study, a children’s section, a lounge area for parents and casual readers, and lockers outside for after-hours pick-up of books, according to officials.
“This groundbreaking is a very important step. When governmental entities can partner such as the library system and Montgomery Township, that is what makes this project such a great idea. To be successful we can’t do it alone,” Somerset County Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson said. “The addition of the library kind of evolved in the process, because as Montgomery has grown, so has the needs and services they provide to the community.”