WARETOWN, NJ – Like many immigrants, George Mackres came to the United States from Greece with little money in his pocket. An orphan, George recognized that some hard work and initiative would get him far. It’s a legacy he’s most certainly passed on to his children. And, one that could result in some good news to Ocean Township taxpayers.
Legend has it that George actually built the Waretown Shopping Plaza “by hand.” In thinking back to his youth, Nick Mackres remembers his father doing the construction himself. And, of course, father and son would go on to work together for many years.
George’s presence in Southern Ocean County began when he opened up the Forked River House, which once stood in the location now occupied by Charlie Brown’s on Route 9. It subsequently burned down in 1992. However, George initially targeted the area for a reason.’
Construction of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant was underway just down the highway. According to Nick, over a thousand people came in to help build it. Many did not live in the area.
“My father saw that a lot of the workers were transient and not from the area,” shared Nick. “He decided they all needed a place to sleep, and that’s how he came up with the idea of building the hotel.”
The hotel, which now goes by the name Blue Creek Inn, was the first project the Mackres family brought to Waretown. They next built a restaurant and subsequently developed the strip mall known as the Waretown Plaza.
Meanwhile, the Mackres family owns quite a bit of undeveloped land within the Ocean Township. Their property not only includes the area behind the post office but also goes right up to Shop Rite. It further extends behind the Harvest Buffet in the Town Center. In total, it adds up to almost 40 acres, with only about a third of it already developed.
These days, Nick leads the push to add to the development of the property. He acknowledges that the current administration is very supportive of positive growth.
Mayor Ken Baulderstone has made no secret that he’s aggressively seeking more rateables within the Township. He also believes that the Mackres family has presented a proposal that makes sense.
“Commercial needs are changing,” shared Baulderstone. “Plans are to start with a mixed-use development that blends commercial and residential use.”
However, the project won’t just stop there. The Mackres family also plans to revamp the shopping center and expand the hotel by adding up to 74 rooms. Ultimately, it would have more of a resort feel to it.
According to Nick, his goal isn’t to bring in any of the big box stores. In keeping the small-town feel, Nick wants to make it easier for people to get the things they need without driving miles away.
“On average, every town has about 10% in commercial property owners,” said Nick. “Waretown is about half of that, which creates a big disconnect.”
A professional office building and apartments or townhouses are all part of the current plans. Additionally, Nick says the project will include the construction of an assisted living facility of 68 units and a community center.
“We are conveniently located equidistant between two hospitals,” Nick reminded. “It will take some time to get the permits for the assisted living facility, but I see it as a great opportunity.”
The Mackres family has already received conceptual approval from the Redevelopment Committee for the plans it submitted. Nick is now on to the next step of securing both CAFRA and DEP approvals. In dealing with any bureaucracy, this could take as long as a year at a cost in excess of $100K.