EWING, NJ – The train will be pulling into the station at the long-empty General Motors site off Parkway Avenue here, according to a plan developed for the Township Council – but likely not for a decade or so, even the planner concedes.
“We can’t get to that point unless we start somewhere,” Charles Latini of CWL Planning tells GlobeSt.com. “There is much that can be accomplished in the near term, though, maybe starting with multi-family housing on the cleanest land on Parkway Avenue, depending on what the market is doing when the plan is approved.”
Ewing Township hired Latini, a local resident and the president of the NJ chapter of the American Planning Association to produce the plan. Mayor Bert Steinmann has already expressed his “unyielding support,” although it will not formally come before the council until Jan. 3, says Latini.
But he has produced blueprints for a highly complex and deeply ambitious project: creation of an entirely new transit-oriented town center on an 80-acre site, which includes two other parcels in addition to the home of the GM factory that was demolished in 2001.
Similar in scale to Westmont Station, Somerset Development’s project at the former Curtiss-Wright plant in Woodridge, the Parkway Avenue Redevelopment Plan envisions a whole new village in the West Trenton section of Ewing: housing, shopping, restaurants, offices, a park and a town square.
These would be centered on a proposed NJ Transit rail line to run from Newark, under Latini’s plan, with the Trenton-Mercer Airport terminal also relocated to the site.
Ralph E. Zucker, Somerset’s president, said he has no personal knowledge of the Parkway Avenue plan, but agreed with Latini’s own assessment that such projects often take a decade or more to come to fruition.
“It can easily take that amount of time to get mixed-use, transit-oriented, multi-faceted developments off the ground,” said Zucker. “There are just so many gears that have to mesh together to make it work.”
Somerset acquired the Wood-ridge site, where Curtiss-Wright Corp. had built aircraft engines for many years just as General Motors did in Ewing, in 1998. It took three years to get plans approved, and Somerset spent $16 million on an environmental cleanup of contaminants before the first two apartment buildings were built and opened last year.
Work has also begun to prepare for construction of a new NJ Transit rail station at Westmont, conceived from the start as the heart of the project.
Since such projects take so long to launch, Zucker said, “The key is build unlimited flexibility into the plan. At Westmont station, because of the inherent flexibility of the design, and the willingness of the community to allow flexibility as the market changed, we were able to hang in there and make it happen.”
In Ewing, the redevelopment site is currently in the hands of three separate owners, the RACER Trust which took ownership of the GM site when it closed, Nassimi Realty which purchased a part of the original GM property and developer W. Barry Rank who owns 13 acres.