Clayton, New Jersey
Clayton’s Renaissance: Community, Collaboration, and Vision
Visionary leadership meets community spirit, ensuring a bright future for this New Jersey gem.
In the heart of Gloucester County lies Clayton, New Jersey. With its picturesque landscapes and dynamic community spirit, Clayton exemplifies the Garden State’s enduring charm and potential.
As you traverse its tree-lined streets, you’re greeted by a tapestry of architectural wonders, from historic homes that whisper tales of yesteryears to modern edifices that speak of innovation. The town’s commitment to preserving its heritage while fostering growth is evident in its well-maintained parks, bustling local businesses, and top-tier educational institutions.
With its picturesque landscapes and dynamic community spirit, Clayton, New Jersey, stands as a beacon of promise. But what truly defines this town’s essence?
Susan Miller is the Borough Administrator and has spent most of her life in Clayton. She fondly reminisces about the town’s evolution. “Even though we’ve witnessed significant growth and many changes, Clayton has never lost its hometown feel,” she says. “It remains a geographically and socially tight community, being just a little over seven square miles of comradely neighborhoods and developments. What’s remarkable is the number of families who’ve either stayed through generations or returned after venturing out. This continuity has fostered an unparalleled sense of community support, spirit, and togetherness.”
Indeed, Clayton’s unique charm lies in its ability to maintain a close-knit community ambiance amidst the rapid growth of neighboring municipalities. “While places like Glassboro and Rowan University have undergone tremendous transformations, especially with developments like Rowan Boulevard, Clayton has managed to preserve its essence,” Miller points out. “Despite having a state highway cutting through our downtown, we still have a downtown.”
Revitalizing Downtown Clayton: A Blend of Heritage and Progress
Miller delves into the intricacies of Clayton’s downtown development. “We have a master plan that’s regularly updated as required by statute. Beyond this, we’ve engaged an engineering firm with municipal planners to study our downtown,” she shares. This study has led to the designation of certain parcels as areas in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation. “This allows us to overlay specific redevelopment projects or visions outside of our master plan and design standards,” Miller adds, highlighting the flexibility this approach offers.
In terms of partnerships, the city has collaborated with Triad Associates for several years. ” We have utilized their services for several key initiatives, and they’ve been pivotal in helping us define an economic development vision and market the opportunities in Clayton,” Miller notes. Triad’s expertise has been instrumental in securing sizeable grants for Clayton, including significant congressional funding for a new ladder truck for the Clayton Volunteer Fire Company and a potential $100,000 grant aimed at beautifying and ensuring the safety of the downtown corridor. “The focus is on aesthetics and making the area more walkable and freer from hazards,” she elaborates.
On the residential front, Miller mentions two significant projects. “We have the Silver Lake Residence, which will introduce 112 luxury rental apartments with top tier amenities at the south end of town. Additionally, there’s Autumn Run, offering single-family home condos where residents own their homes but lease the ground,” she explains. This unique housing model is a novel approach in the area.
Strategic Community Centers and Parking Solutions
Charles Simon, Borough Council President, provides a detailed perspective on Clayton’s community hubs and the ongoing initiatives. “The senior center, while not directly downtown, is strategically located at one of our town hubs-DJ Bentz Memorial Soccer Complex, which is named after Clayton resident PFC. David J. Bentz, III, who was killed in action during the Iraq War.” he explains. This location, next to soccer fields and two 55+ developments, ensures easy accessibility for many seniors. “Having the senior center there, open for events and gatherings, truly brings the community together,” Simon adds with evident pride.
The senior center also doubles as a polling center, allowing residents to appreciate the facility’s offerings. “Being right next to the soccer fields, it’s a hub of activity, from children playing to the elderly walking around the field,” Simon notes.
Discussing downtown parking, Simon acknowledges the challenges and opportunities. “As we try to attract more businesses, we recognize the need for expanded parking. While street parking currently suffices, and some larger establishments have their own lots, we’re exploring ways to enhance parking, especially with the influx of more businesses.”
Breweries, Liquor Stores, and Commercial Aspirations
Highlighting the significance of local businesses, Simon mentions the local Core III Brewery, and Clayton Liquors. “The brewery transformed an old gas station into a popular attraction, drawing not just locals but visitors from afar,” he says. The brewery’s success story, with its year-round offerings and both indoor and outdoor spaces, is a testament to Clayton’s potential as a commercial hub.
Clayton Liquors, located in the heart of downtown, is another success story. “Previously a bar, it underwent significant rehabilitation. Now, it offers unique experiences like a cigar bar and bourbon tasting, attracting a diverse clientele,” Simon shares.
Miller chimes in with the town’s commercial aspirations. “Our residents have a strong desire for a restaurant,” she reveals. With the help of Triad Associates, the town has developed a marketing brochure to attract restaurateurs. “We’re actively marketing a privately held liquor license to potential restaurant owners, as the current owner seeks our assistance in selling it,” Miller adds. This initiative underscores the town’s commitment to fulfilling its residents’ wishes and enhancing Clayton’s commercial landscape.
Industrial Growth and Connectivity: Clayton’s Commercial Vision
Miller sheds light on Clayton’s industrial landscape. “We do have an industrial center on Cenco Boulevard,” she notes. Over the past three to four years, this area has seen significant development. From a commercial driving school rejuvenating a previously dilapidated parcel to the establishment of Seashore Asphalt, LLC. and an environmental cleanup company, the industrial center has thrived. “We’ve also witnessed the expansion of a commercial auto repair facility. Currently, there’s limited space left for further development,” Miller adds.
Discussing other commercial prospects, Miller reveals, “We’ve been in talks with several hospital and physician organizations. With the retirement of a long-standing provider, Dr. Carl Schopfer, who served for over 40 years, there’s a palpable need for medical facilities.” Whether it’s urgent care, a physician’s complex, or a rehab center, Clayton is actively seeking to enhance its medical offerings. “Given our sizable senior population, having healthcare facilities within the town would be ideal,” she emphasizes.
Clayton’s Strategic Location and Commuting Advantages
Simon highlights Clayton’s advantageous position in relation to major metropolitan areas. “Our closest metro area is Philadelphia,” he says. “We’re strategically located between two major arteries leading to Philadelphia: Route 55 on the west and Route 42 on the east.” This positioning ensures residents are just about half an hour away from the town. Simon, who himself commutes to Philadelphia, adds, “It’s an easy commute. We’re close enough to enjoy the town’s amenities, yet distant enough to relish Clayton’s suburban tranquility.”
Furthermore, Clayton’s location offers more than just proximity to Philadelphia. “We’re roughly 50 minutes from Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore, positioning us right in the middle of various attractions,” Simon shares. This central location, combined with the town’s ongoing commercial initiatives, underscores Clayton’s appeal as a place of growth, opportunity, and connectivity.
Safety, Education, and Collaborative Governance in Clayton
Simon speaks with evident pride about Clayton’s educational landscape. “Our ranking has been on an upward trajectory in terms of testing and safety,” he notes. The town boasts modern facilities, with the high school being a mere decade old and the middle school also housed in the state-of-the-art building. “Due to our technological advancements, we were ahead of the curve when Covid struck. All students were already equipped with iPads, ready for remote learning,” Simon adds. He emphasizes the close-knit relationships between teachers, students, and parents, stating, “The rapport we have in our schools is second to none.”
Miller chimes in to highlight the town’s safety measures. “We’ve partnered with the county for shared EMS services,” she says, highlighting the strategic decision to ensure efficient emergency response. Thanks to Gloucester County’s alliance with Inspira Health, the town also boasts an Inspira Health EMS hub, whose professional EMTs and paramedics provide basic and advanced life support care, augmenting the services provided by county EMTs. Simon chimes in, “Joining with the county has not only maintained our service quality but improved our response times, given that county buildings are situated within Clayton.”
Miller further elaborates on the town’s safety infrastructure. “We have a fully staffed police department with an excellent reputation. They’re deeply involved in community policing and have established strong relationships within the community.” She also praises the town’s volunteer fire company, emphasizing their dedication, training, and invaluable service to the community without being a financial burden. Both organizations solidly support each other, and the mutual respect and affinity among the PD, firefighters, and residents are exemplary.
Both Simon and Miller emphasize the importance of collaboration in driving Clayton’s agenda forward. “Our local and county governments have been incredibly supportive of our initiatives,” Simon shares. Miller echoes this sentiment, detailing the various shared services with Gloucester County. “From EMS to fire official services, tax assessment, and fleet maintenance, our partnership with the county has been invaluable,” she says. This collaborative approach, leveraging shared services and resources, underscores Clayton’s commitment to efficiency, community welfare, and fiscal responsibility.
Charting Clayton’s Future: Affordability, Succession, and Community Services
Miller, with a deep understanding of Clayton’s unique challenges and strengths, outlines her top priorities for the coming year. “Affordability, while ensuring the protection of services, stands out,” she says. “We’re always exploring shared services, whether with the county or neighboring municipalities, to ensure our significant senior population can live comfortably on fixed incomes.”
Miller also underscores the importance of forward-thinking leadership. “Succession planning is crucial, especially in local government. As key positions become vacant due to retirements, we need to ensure we have competent individuals ready to take the helm.” She emphasizes the need to align the town’s services with residents’ desires, ensuring Clayton remains responsive to its community’s evolving needs.
Simon’s vision for Clayton is rooted in community trust and safety. “Our focus remains on ensuring the safety of our community through our police, fire, and public works departments,” he shares. “We’re fortunate to have fully staffed departments, with engaged employees and volunteers who actively participate in community events. This fosters a deep trust between these departments and the community.” He lauds the efforts of the chief and the entire staff in building this rapport, as evident in events like the National Night Out.
Simon also emphasizes the importance of economic growth. “While we’re positioned between larger towns, Clayton has its unique charm. Our goal is to continue expanding, attracting businesses that resonate with our town’s character and values,” he concludes.
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AT A GLANCE
Clayton, New Jersey
What: An in-depth feature on Clayton, New Jersey, a thriving and fast-growing town with top-tier economic initiatives.
Where: Clayton, New Jersey