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MANAHAWKIN, NJ-The Walters Group, developer of Stafford Park Apartments, is nearing completion on the first two buildings of the residential project, consisting of 46 affordable housing units. The new apartments are expected to be ready for occupancy by October 1, according to the Barnegat-based developer.

The residential community is part of the 370-acre Stafford Park redevelopment, located off Exit 63 of the Garden State Parkway, on Stafford Park Blvd. here. The site of a former landfill, the Walters Group is transforming the area into a mixed-use community, with a planned 25,000 square feet of office space and 650,000 feet worth of retail and recreation.

When completed, Stafford Park Apartments will consist of five low-rise buildings, featuring a selection of energy-efficient one-, two- and three-bedroom layouts with rents ranging from $468 to $1,207 per month. Each unit will be equipped with Energy Star appliances, including a microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator, stove and a full-size washer/dryer.

The environmentally friendly redevelopment is being built using green building methods and materials, and the entire project is designed to meet both Silver LEED and Energy Star certification. Additionally, Stafford Park is surrounded by 17,000 acres of permanently protected state forest that is documented as an existing and wildlife habitat.

“Stafford Park combines redevelopment, affordable housing and energy efficiency,” says Ed Walters, Jr., president of the Walters Group. “It offers a reasonably priced alternative to housing in the area, and by building green we’ve created a healthier place to live.”

Located in southern Ocean County, the community is pedestrian-friendly and situated within walking distance to shopping and dining. Adjacent to the apartment community, the Stafford Park retail portion currently includes Target, Costco, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods and PetSmart. An additional residential component is planned for the redevelopment, consisting of 565 age-restricted housing units.

According to Walters, we should see an uptick in green communities in the coming years. “There will to continue to be a real push towards developing projects that lower communities’ carbon footprint. Mixing uses that allow people to have access to their daily needs without having to drive great distances is also going to be important, as well as designing projects that are well thought out as far as site selection; materials; and incorporating renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geo-thermal and co-generation,” he says; essentially, “more of a cradle-to-cradle project approach.”

The state is long overdue for an eco-friendly overhaul, according to Walters. “For 100 years we have developed and built with no thought given to things that have an environmental impact–from material and water usage to energy usage.”

Trenton is also throwing its weight behind a greener Garden State in the hopes that it will spark job growth. To that end, Gov. Jon Corzine addressed the US Senate in late July on clean energy resources that could represent new industries for New Jersey, to the tune of 20,000 direct jobs by 2020. These efforts are on track to include weatherization and retrofits; solar installations; the installation, assembly and manufacturing of offshore wind turbines; construction and plant management jobs; and smart grid jobs like construction and possibly IT.

In his address, the Governor noted that other policies that provide incentives related to zero-waste, water conservation and open space will also result in significant expansion of green employment in New Jersey. He added that, collectively, the administration’s efforts will include over $1.2 billion in investments and have the potential to create jobs from entry-level auditors to traditional construction trades.

In an effort to speed up the process, the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development has created the Green Jobs Partnership Training program, which will graduate 300 qualified workers over the next year. After the training, the participants will be placed in jobs with industry partners, who will be reimbursed for up to 50% of the minimum $15 hourly wage paid during these three-to-six month internships. The state’s largest utility, PSE&G, has already committed to hiring 100 program graduates.

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