The letter was submitted by Stakeholders-Act.org. Members as listed on the group’s website include the following Trenton property and business owners: Anne LaBate, Willard Alonzo Stanback, Roland Pott, Tom Fowler, Robert Torricelli, Maurice Hallett, Jorge Mata, Drew Worek, Alex and Yanlika Hicks, Dwaine Williamson, Bernard McMullan, and Matt Faircloth.

Architect Richard Carroll of JKPP Architects in Philadelphia offers a graphic example of how state plans could be integrated into existing buildings and lots to create mixed-use, walkable, and transit-connected offices at the intersection of South Broad and East Front streets.

A state office-building project was announced in September of 2016, with a goal to provide modern office space in Trenton for 1,400 state employees. It has been over 25 years since state facility development occurred on this scale. It is a unique opportunity for the State of New Jersey, the City of Trenton, and other stakeholders to carefully plan for this estimated $135 million investment, in order to assure that it achieves the best results for our city.

Immediately after that announcement, downtown stakeholders and city residents began to raise concerns. Many of us, over the past two years, participated in the Trenton 250 planning process, which engaged hundreds of Trenton residents, business owners, state employees, and other interested participants in a dynamic exchange of ideas and visioning. Yet this effort, as well as the City of Trenton’s current Master Plan, are being ignored and will be undermined by what the state has proposed.

It appears to be the $135 million project that no one likes. We frankly haven’t found anyone that thinks well of it.

It is clear that in the short term, the state’s plans will have a significant negative effect on downtown businesses by moving 1,000 state employees away from the heart of downtown and nearer to Route 29. Further, the exact location where the state proposes to build has long been targeted for development that could finally stabilize the city’s tax base. Instead, the state’s plan would create more of the same single use buildings, dependent on surface parking lots, that have long been identified as the source of what is most problematic to the workings of our downtown.

The NJEDA expects to fast track these flawed plans. In response, those that had been engaged in informal discussions have come together to form a new organization called Stakeholders Allied for the Core of Trenton or Stakeholders-ACT.

We believe that a plan for our downtown core should be guided by these principles: prioritize the creation of pedestrian-friendly density in the center of our downtown, benefiting our retailers, restaurants and other commercial establishments; redevelop long vacant and under-utilized properties at the center of our downtown; provide the best possible access to our train station, encouraging the use of mass transit; plan for mixed-use development that will optimize the shared use of parking facilities and potentially help spur new residential development; and carefully consider the effect on the city’s tax base, both direct and indirect, of any development plan.

We seek both for our capital city to thrive, and for the state to realize an optimal benefit for its investment. To accomplish these goals, we ask that our mayor, our city council, and the board of Greater Trenton request that Governor Christie and his team revisit these plans, using a more open and holistic process. Through collaboration with urban development professionals and the many downtown stakeholders, these office facilities can become key building blocks, contributing to our larger ambition for a revitalized downtown.

Without such reconsideration, we see serious potential for a negative effect on the downtown district. Both the Trenton 250 Plan and the 2008 Downtown Master Plan clearly identify the need to strengthen our downtown retail businesses. While we strive to fill our many vacant storefronts, these plans will make it hard to retain the businesses we have.

There are viable, available development opportunities that are closer to the heart of our downtown and closer to the transit hub. These locations would allow an increase in the use of public transportation, reducing the need for tax dollars to pay for state employee parking.

To illustrate that potential, we have developed a concept that envisions a plan more directly aligned with the Master Plan. We invite concerned Trenton Stakeholders to visit our website to see renderings of that plan at www.Stakeholders-Act.org. To be become involved, and to share your ideas, contact us via e-mail at: stakeholders.act@gmail.com.