“Big Mo” has arrived.
At least that’s the word according to Mayor Kelly Yaede, who painted the picture of a township on a roll during her State of Hamilton address Feb. 15.
Momentum—or, in Yaede’s words, “Big Mo”—took top billing during the 37-minute speech at the Stone Terrace in front of a gathering of the MidJersey Chamber of Commerce. As evidence, she pointed to the redevelopment of the two vacant car dealerships on Route 33 in Hamilton Square, the ongoing clean-up at the Congoleum site across from the Hamilton train station, the rejuvenation of Suburban Plaza on the township’s western border and more projects in progress across the township. In the coming year, the township will see the redevelopment of Hamilton Lanes bowling alley into an entertainment complex, as well as a new QuickChek gas station near Congoleum.
“It’s not just lip service,” Yaede said in her speech. “It’s not just talk. It’s momentum.”
Things did move fast in Hamilton last year, with a number of ratables coming to fruition since Yaede’s 2017 address. The Homestead at Hamilton retirement community opened last month at the corner of Kuser and Klockner Roads, and a new warehouse for luxury appliance makers Sub-Zero and Wolf at the same intersection has come to life as well. The construction of a FedEx fulfillment center on Route 130 across from the Shoppes at Hamilton brought with it a permanent traffic signal, allowing better access to both the warehouse and the shopping center. Independence Plaza on South Broad Street has its highest occupancy rate in a decade.
The Court at Hamilton shopping center on Nottingham Way, formerly known as Suburban Plaza, now has all but two units filled after being more than 90 percent vacant before WalMart committed to redeveloping it. Among the new businesses at the plaza is a Panda Express restaurant.
The former sites of Patterson Chevrolet and Hamilton Chrysler found new life in 2017. The Chrysler site now has an Aldi supermarket, a Panera Bread restaurant and an AAA car care center. The Patterson site has been completed for a year now, with an AutoZone retailer and a Wawa gas station and convenience store.
“For those of you that love Wawa coffee, you’re welcome,” Yaede said.
Yaede also had her share of new news. The largest item perhaps was the sale of Hamilton Lanes on Kuser Road. The redevelopment proposal includes adding miniature golf and laser tag to the facility, as well as renovating the bowling lanes. There also may be a pad site added to the lot, which would be leased by another business.
Across the township, the vacant Congoleum site at the corner of Sloan and Klockner continues to be cleaned up by the developer. Nearby, another lot will soon be home to a QuickChek gas station.
The Republican mayor focused on economic development, but also briefly touched on a range of issues, including the renovation of township parks and playing fields, the ongoing dispute with Trenton Water Works, her eagerness to begin the process of consolidating the township’s fire districts into a single municipal department, and a continued emphasis on public safety. She unveiled in her address a proposal to hire two new police officers, a plan that would require council approval. Council learned of the proposal as the general public did—during Yaede’s address—but its members were amenable to the suggestion.
“Public safety is a top priority for us, so we will strongly consider the mayor’s proposal to add two additional police officers,” Democratic councilman Rick Tighe said in a statement. “We campaigned on a platform of greater accountability, so I was encouraged to hear the mayor give a more realistic speech this year. The residents of Hamilton need to know about the challenges we face so that we can continue to prosper as a community.”
One of those challenges is a rise in non-violent crime countywide, including “crimes of opportunity” like burglaries and car thefts. In addition to adding to the police force, Yaede said the township has taken preventative measures, such as releasing a public service announcement to inform residents not to leave their cars running and unattended. The PSA demonstrates the theft of such a vehicle could take as little as 15 seconds.
“If they see it’s unlocked and running, particularly if you’re near a bus stop, they’re not going to walk to the bus,” Yaede said. “They’re going to take your car and drive it to work.”
Yaede concluded her speech by thanking township employees and council for working together with her administration for the benefit of Hamilton residents.
“There’s no ‘I’ in team,” Yaede said. “There’s no ‘I’ in momentum. But there’s power in momentum. And that’s what we’re realizing in Hamilton Township.”
Township council president Anthony Carabelli, Jr., a Democrat, agreed with Yaede’s sentiments.
“The mayor touched on several topics in her address that I believe are important pieces for the future growth of our township,” Carabelli said. “Through the development of our blighted sites, including the former Congoleum property, we will ensure we control our property taxes and offer more employment opportunities for our residents. Together, we can create an effective and responsive bipartisan government.”