WOODBRIDGE – Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS) from development allows the township to keep investing in school and municipal infrastructure with a continued focus on economic development.
“No municipality our size has had the success,” Mayor John McCormac said during his during his annual State of the Township address in January.
In 2020, a 1 million-square-foot warehouse project run by Morris Companies on Rahway Avenue funded the $87 million school bond referendum through profit of sale of the land and $2 million in annual PILOT funds. Voters approved the referendum on March 10.
McCormac said the township purchased 54 acres of state property at the former Woodbridge Developmental Center site on Rahway Avenue for $5 million in June 2020 and the purchase of nine acres of adjoining property from Conrail for $2 million in September 2020.
“The Morris Company emerged from 16 [developer] prospects and [was the] selected redeveloper of the site,” the mayor said. “They paid us $51 million in cash for 63 acres that we paid $7 million for and soon they will donate six acres of [the Premier Die Casting Co. site on Rahway Avenue] for the [new Avenel Street School 4/5], which is worth another $10 million.”
The biggest part of the referendum is the construction of a brand new Avenel Street School No. 4/5. The school building on Avenel Street is the oldest school in the district at more than 100 years old.
“Work is already being done on projects. Architects and engineers are working on major expansions of Lafayette Estates School No. 25 in Fords, Matthew Jago School No. 28 in Sewaren and consolidation of buildings at Kennedy Park School No. 24 in Iselin and Lynn Crest School No. 22 in Colonia,” McCormac said.
The referendum also includes increased security improvements at a number of schools.
McCormac said PILOTs have also helped the township afford aggressive capital programs for road and sewer improvements, enhanced parks and fields and new vehicles and equipment. Last year, the township implemented an expansive program to fix long-term flooding problem areas.
The township has had success with attracting new projects from warehouses and power plants to downtown luxury housing and retail projects.
Three new warehouses opened in 2020 and another 10 will open in the next two years. A third power plant will join two existing power plants in the township. Competitive Power Ventures obtained approval for a new plant next to their existing plant at the Woodbridge Energy Center on the Brownfield Development Area in Keasbey, McCormac said.
Station Village, the luxury housing and retail project in Avenel, which includes the Avenel Performing Arts Center and Curtains restaurant site, continues to flourish. McCormac said retail at the site include The Coffee Bar, national firms Kessler Rehabilitation Institute and Kumon Learning; Rocco’s Pizzeria, which has new owners; and Feed Ya Soul restaurant, which opened last year.
He also noted Margeez Bar & Grill was sold and will soon become Jersey Boys Pizza.
Major development is underway of downtown luxury apartments and retail projects in Woodbridge Proper. The Prism Capital Partners project at the former Rug’s and Riffy’s Bar and Grill on Rahway Avenue is expected to open in late spring. It includes 232 luxury rentals and 12,000 square feet of street-level retail space.
The first retail tenant of the site will be LeGrand Coffee House owned by the township’s very own Eric LeGrand. The township purchased the old bank building at 106 Main St.
McCormac said discussions are underway to bring a steakhouse to the site, which is “something that is sorely needed on Main Street.”
McCormac said dominos are falling in place on Route 1 north and south. Two small casual restaurants will soon occupy the former Bud’s Hut and Seafood restaurant site, which closed in August 2015.
A medical office is also set to open in the near future.
In Sewaren, the township secured $4.5 million in funding from Middlesex County to obtain the title of Captain Hooks Marina and the Pirates Cove Marina landing. The township plans to open a complex featuring a pet friendly restaurant, which is a short walk from the township dog park.