UNION, NJ – A “Meet the Mayor” networking event, sponsored by the Township of Union Chamber of Commerce, was held on Thursday evening with chamber members and guests, members of the township committee, department heads and other township officials.
At the meeting, Mayor Michele Delisfort shared the ‘State of the Township’ address she presented at the township reorganization meeting on Jan. 1, outlining accomplishments of 2019 and plans for 2020.
“It is my honor to be here with you today to celebrate the progress and reaffirm our commitments to you, our business community,” said Delisfort.
Delisfort said 2019 was a year of “continued progress, accomplishments and transformation.” She said the township met the following goals: expanded and enriched opportunities for public engagement; launched a new inclusive effort to invite more citizens to participate on committees, boards and associations; embarked upon a comprehensive Master Planning process; and continued collaboration and partnership with the Board of Education.
Regarding inclusively and public engagement, Delisfort said the township successfully established communication, collaboration and partnerships that included meetings held to discuss the Master Plan process, which “afforded residents the opportunity to articulate their vision for the future”. Delisfort said the township established a Parking Advisory Committee, made up of residents and professionals. She said one recommendation from the committee thus far is to add 51 parking spaces between Axton Avenue and the Columbus Park area. The committee is also exploring ways to limit parking to encourage more parking opportunities for shoppers and visitors, and looking at a municipal parking expansion project, which would add 30 more parking spots next to the main library, with a long-term solution to include a parking deck in the downtown area.
Delisfort told the Chamber members 2019 was a year of impressive infrastructure improvements. “Our commitment to improving the quality and lifespan of our infrastructure assets have never been stronger, from rising property values throughout the township to expanded economic investment in all corners to overwhelming attraction of families looking to move to Union.”
The Mayor outlined a road reconstruction program, stating that 50 roads will be milled and paved, and six roads will be reconstructed by the end of May, with 30 roads reconstructed and two parking lots on Jeanette Avenue paved and stripped later this year.
Regarding redevelopment, Delisfort said, “as a professional planner, I can’t resist the opportunity to talk about the benefits of redevelopment, such as blight elimination, tax base expansion, strategic planning for population shifts, increased property values, and job retention and creation.”
Delisfort outlined some 2019 redevelopment initiatives including demolition of the old CC Mugs on Stuyvesant Avenue near Stanley Terrace. The Mayor said the site will feature a new church and a community center for the religion institution and eight residential units. Delisfort said the Garden State Motel officially closed and is slated for demolition this year with a Fairfield by Marriot Hotel, a WaWa with a gas station, a Burger King and a CubeSmart storage facility
The decades-long vacant Money Store, at the intersection of Morris Avenue and Spruce Street, was purchased by Children’s Specialized Hospital purchased the building. “This gateway project is crucial to the township, and we are honored to have this venerable institution as part of the Union family,” said Delisfort.
The Union Center American Landmark project will “continue to transform and modernize the Center” with the goal of increasing foot traffic in the Center. Delisfort said Phase I on Bonnell Court is complete and opening in early March. Phase II, at the old Rite Aid site, is scheduled for completion in 2021 and Phase III, at the old Terminal Mills and Unity Bank site, is scheduled for completion in 2022.
Delisfort said Titan Union, formerly the ConnectOne Bank in Union Center, once complete, will include a co-working space, community area and an arts and culture element. The Mayor said Phase I at Vermella Union, near Union Station, is complete with 75 units leased. Phase II is underway. She said Phase I of Summit Court, with 130 fully occupied units, is complete. Phase II is in the planning stages.
“When completed, these projects represents a total investment in Union of more than an impressive $1 billion dollars,” said Delisfort.
"Economic development, business retention and attraction in Union Center and beyond has always been a priority for this committee,” said Delisfort. “I’m proud to announce that these projects have resulted in minimal and negligible impact of school age children, which is consistent with fiscal impact projections and academic studies.”
Delisfort said Standard and Poor has reaffirmed the Township’s AA+ financial rating this year.
The Mayor said the focus for 2020 is on:
- The 2020 Census with the creation of the Census Advisory Committee
- Union Center arts and cultural initiatives
- WiFi in the Center
- Bolster Union’s engagement efforts
- Continue “Meet the Mayor” events
- Commence the Springfield Avenue Façade Improvement Program
- Complete the Park Master Plan
- Complete the Springfield Pedestrian Plaza Program
- Support the library renovation
- Complete the Master Plan
“We have an exciting year ahead of us,” concluded Delisfort, “full of responsible growth, progression and positive change.”