This article was originally published in the November 2018 Trenton Downtowner.
That project was initiated by Gov. Chris Christie during his final year and was met with resistance from city businesses owners, community leaders, city residents, and a former EDA executive.
Their argument was that the project did not reflect existing planning, did not include public and private partnerships to enhance the business climate and tax base, and would have a negative impact on Trenton business.
When the Christie administration refused to reconsider, community members formed Stakeholders Allied for the Core of Trenton (ACT) and initiated an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop the EDA from securing the necessary bonds.
Those actively opposing the state project include former Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer, former Mercer County Executive Bob Prunetti, and Mayor Reed Gusciora.
That the Murphy administration seems intent on complying with the Christie plan was evident at the planning session where EDA representatives outlined their plans.
While the planning board was not in the position to approve or reject the state construction, the planners several times pointed out design changes and embellishments that were added to address community concerns.
The community, however, expressed its opposition to the buildings and site during the public comment session.
And while one small business owner saw the positive in a state building being moved nearer to his business, others asked the state to re-envision the project by using a public-private approach to help stimulate the city’s economy and build in a manner that produced more foot traffic to downtown businesses.
Those speakers included Prunetti, Trenton business owner T. C. Nelson, Segal LaBate Commercial Real Estate president and ACT organizer Anne LaBate, and Trenton City Councilman Jerell Blakeley.
Two other community members mentioned that none of the people involved with the presentation or the EDA lived in Trenton and would feel the lasting impact of their decisions.
After a question and answer session, board members reiterated that the project did not conform to existing plans and voted unanimously to write a letter to the EDA to outline the board’s concerns and those of the community.
The topic of the buildings may also be a consideration when the city and treasury begin the above mentioned partnership and discuss reviewing and implementing the city’s long-range Master Plan, Trenton250. Stay tuned.