At the Hopewell Township Committee meeting Monday night, Committee Member Julie Blake announced that the Township Committee plans to explore the possibility of erecting a community and aquatic center on Township owned property in the area of the Pennington Circle off of Route 31, known a the “Zaitz tract.” The property would also be the site for affordable housing and would incorporate existing retail along the Pennington Circle.
Comprised of several adjoining lots, the property amounts to approximately 40-45 acres. In October 2015, the Zaitz tract was re-identified as a preferential location for the future site for affordable housing. For information in the Zaitz tract and its roll in the Township’s affordable housing plan. (See Affordable Housing Analysis Continues at Meeting in Hopewell Township.)
In addition to a community center, the potential use would also include space for senior citizen programs, a much needed use in Hopewell Valley. For years, Hopewell Valley seniors have worked to improve their existing senior center and have made strides toward a new facility. (See Future Senior Center on Scotch Road makes headway in Hopewell Township.) At the August Hopewell Township Planning Board meeting, dozens of Hopewell Valley senior citizens attended to speak in support of a long-promised future location of the Hopewell Valley Senior Center off of Scotch Road in the Merrill Lynch area, known as the “hut” or “shed.” The current senior center, located in Pennington Borough is inadequate for the seniors’ needs, is in need of major repair, according to Hopewell Township Senior Advisory Board President, Larry Mansier.
The consideration of a potential community center would not preclude the possibility of a center on Scotch Road. “I’m envisioning a parallel process,” Kuchsinksi said.
In a statement provided to MercerMe, Mayor Kuchinski said: “Julie Blake and I are concerned that we’ve been talking for 10+ years about building a Senior Center. It’s time to stop talking the talk and work towards solutions that get the building process started.”
“We are recommending that the Township also explore a second option on the Zaitz tract that we believe will increase the odds that the Senior Center is built in a timely manner, as we already own the land.”
Budget wise, the plan would be to take advantage of 1.5 million dollars available for a senior center, and a possible addition 1.5 million dollars of grant money.
“This option envisions a new community and aquatics center, with dedicated space for the seniors and other community groups, and has the potential to tap into a second grant program, the Mercer at Play Grants, to source additional funds to support the construction of this new facility,” Kuchinski continued. “There could be up to an additional $1.5 Million available, if we collaborate with the two Boroughs, as we did with the Twin Pines fields and the the new Senior Service coordinator, to make something happen. Julie and I want to pursue this option in parallel with work for the hut site.”
There’s also the potential to collaborate with local non-profits like the YMCA and Recreation Foundation of Hopewell Valley, on a new Center that benefits the broader community, said Mayor Kuchinski.
The next steps will be for the Township to meet with Hopewell and Pennington Boroughs, and other potential partners on this concept, Kuchinski explained. Meanwhile, the Township will also undergo a preliminary analysis of traffic impacts, sewer potential, and public access. The Township will also continue to pursue a senior center on Scotch Road and will be working closely with our Senior Advisory Board.
MercerMe has been informed that more details will be available at the next Hopewell Township Committee meeting on September 26, 2016 at 7pm.