Legislation to help spark revitalization in Trenton by relocating state offices currently occupying prime waterfront real estate in order to pave the way for private investments in more visitor-friendly attractions was sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora and approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
Gusciora’s bill (A-4409) would require any state department or agency with offices located at 100 – 400 Riverview Plaza in Trenton to relocate to a more appropriate location suitable to its needs within the confines of the capitol city.
The relocation of state departments and agencies would allow for economic development in a prime area of real estate in Trenton. Riverview Plaza is centrally located with access to both the Delaware River and Route 29 and adjacent both Rho restaurant and Arm & Hammer Stadium, home of the Yankees minor league team, the Trenton Thunder.
“Riverview Plaza in Trenton is a beautiful development,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “It’s sandwiched between Rho, a restaurant and nightclub popular with locals and college students, and Arm and Hammer Park.
“The area has all the ingredients of an attractive entertainment district, and the potential to be an incredible economic boon for the City of Trenton. Yet, in a move that defies logic, the State of New Jersey has signed a long-term lease for these buildings, and they are now occupied by the Department of Education, the Office of Information Technology, and the an office of the Judiciary.”
Gusciora stressed that the bill takes a pragmatic approach to redeveloping the area and would not simply force state offices out and leave the buildings vacant, but instead require that prospective developers are lined up first.
“When you think about successful urban revitalization efforts around the country, a common ingredient is the development of the waterfront or harbor area into an entertainment district,” Gusciora continued. “We’ve seen it in places like Baltimore, and even in our own backyard, in Jersey City and Newark. There’s more than enough evidence to suggest this works, and more importantly, that it works fast.”
The bill would require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to seek to attract private entities to occupy all state vacated office spaces at the Riverview Plaza buildings, which are currently occupied, in part, by the state Department of Education and the Office of Information Technology.
“In order to make Trenton an attractive place to live, work, and play, we need to ensure that these needs – for local food and restaurants, for entertainment – are met. Developing the waterfront is an excellent way to ensure that both locals and visitors can get the most out of their time in our Capitol,” Gusciora said. “I look forward to discussing this legislation with my colleagues later this week, and hope that they will share my vision for a bustling, economically successful Trenton.”
The bill would also require the EDA to give priority consideration for eligibility of any authority-administered business assistance program to a private entity seeking to occupy the office space identified in the bill. The EDA, with the approval of the State Treasurer, is authorized to modify its existing business assistance programs where permissible by law, to give bonuses or other enhanced incentives to private entities that occupy the office space identified in the bill.
The bill would also require the authority to work cooperatively with other state departments, agencies, boards, commissions, and authorities to explore and implement opportunities to direct resources to a private entity seeking to occupy the office space identified in the bill.
“If we really want Trenton to succeed and get real revitalization moving, we have to take a more aggressive, but practical approach,” added Gusciora. “Allowing the Department of Education to continue occupying prime waterfront real estate is really nonsensical. So many cities have harnessed the lure of their waterfront to spur redevelopment. We need to follow that path.”
The bill was released by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee. It will now go to the Assembly speaker for further consideration.