By Karen E. Viereck
SWEDESBORO — With progress beginning to happen in Woolwich Township’s large commercial development on Route 322 and Kings Highway, the question always has been, how will Swedesboro survive?
This was one of the questions answered by the Strategic Advisory Group, a research company hired by the Borough of Swedesboro to determine what the town would need to keep relevant and successful in the future.
Their main answer for Swedesboro was to be themselves, but just a little better.
Keep the borough’s historic feel, an aspect that many moving into the area liked, by adding and keeping architectural details such as using large storefront windows and the use of period type detailing, as well as adding gathering spaces to increase foot traffic, a problem merchants complain that they need more of.
SAG’s revealed their findings and recommendations at a presentation on Oct. 9. Although their study determined that there was only a five percent vacancy in the downtown business district, it could be better. But what could make it better?
An online survey was posted of the borough’s website, asking what people thought of the downtown area, what types of businesses they would lik
e to see move into the area, and what could be, and needs improving.
What they determined as an important goal was to make the downtown family oriented, keeping the town’s historic feel, adding more stores, adding more things to do, and have gathering places.
The main survey revealed that the most visited Swedesboro businesses were Botto’s Market, Sweetsboro Pastry, Swedesboro Diner, and Botto’s Itali
an Line Restaurant. What people think is missing is a coffee house, a bistro style Mexican restaurant, a health food store, and an ice cream store. Kingsway High School students said they would like to see clothing stores, ice cream, coffee, and shoe stores.
Karen Morrison, owner of Sweetsboro Pastry said of the plans, “We think it’s great. We would like to see more development in Swedesboro, more foot traffic, to increase our business as well. The idea of a few new restaurants in the area would be nice as well.”
Robert Botto of Botto’s Market and Botto’s Italian line Restaurant agrees. “We feel it would be great to see more development in our downtown and the borough leadership is going in the right direction.
Tavros 13 owner Effie Tzitzifas said she is very excited about the plans. “I also feel strongly that the town should maintain the architectural element.”
SAG felt that one of the best ways to promote businesses is the development of green spaces to make the downtown more of a walking, family friendly area. This would increase foot traffic, something down town businesses have been hoping for.
“The green spaces establishes a framework for creating new publicly accessible area that will enhance the quality of life and provide additional active recreational opportunities for town residents,” said Tzitzifas.
SAG felt that the borough owned lot between Botto’s and Tavro’s is an opportunistic area for commercial expansion. Swedesboro Mayor Tom Fromm announced that night that the borough had just agreed to purchase the InterPac property that sits behind the open lot and Tavro, along Second Street.
This parcel would be Phase I of the project, with a strip of stores with the green space along Kings Highway.
Some of the recommended long term development of that area during Phase I would be 15,000 square feet of green space in front of 15,000 square feet of retail stores with 8,000 square foot of second story office and retail. An outdoor dining area of 1,600 square feet along the road is suggested as well as a 210 car, 2 story parking garage along Second Street, as well as residential rental property.
There is also talk of future development of the former St. Joseph’s Elementary School site. This would be considered Phase II. Phase II would be the redevelopment of the school site into more private green space along Kings Highway in front of residential units as well as parking spaces for the property owners.
More details of the presentation can be found at http://www.historicswedesboro.com/2013/09/swedesboro-presents-cbd-revitalization-study-results/.
SAG was funded through a grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.