Washington Township, New Jersey
A great family community
Business View Magazine interviews Joann Gattinelli, Mayor of Washington Township (Gloucester County) New Jersey, for our focus on American Sustainability.
The roots of Washington Township, New Jersey go back to February 17, 1836, when it was incorporated as part of Gloucester County during a meeting held at the Green Tree Tavern, at the corner of Egg Harbor Road and Green Tree Road. Today, the 23-square-mile Township is Gloucester County’s largest municipality and home to more than 48,500 people living in the communities of Turnersville, Hurffville, Grenloch, CrossKeys, Mayfair, Bunker Hill, and Chapel Heights. Washington Township is enjoyed as a great family community with outstanding educational, recreational, and social activities. Considered a medical hub, the Township also boasts a private sector portfolio of excellent retail, professional, and corporate businesses.
Washington Township is conveniently sited on the N-S Freeway (State Highway 42) at the beginning of the Atlantic City Expressway, less than 10 minutes away from Interstate Routes 295, 95, 676 and the New Jersey Turnpike. Local train service is available from nearby Woodbury or the Lindenwold High Speed Line which is operated by PATCO. New Jersey Transit bus service is located in Washington Township and serves the surrounding areas. The town is approximately 20 minutes from Philadelphia, and the main hub of AMTRAK. Newark International is about 90 minutes away, New York is two hours, Delaware Memorial Bridge and Commodore Barry Bridge are 40 minutes, and all shore points about 1.5 hours away.
In 2017, when Joann Gattinelli was elected as Mayor of Washington Township, one of her first goals was to achieve economic development data. She admits, “There was a lot I wanted to make a difference in. We have a stretch of road within the town that veins into many different areas. Those corridors, and the fact that our area is a hospital hub, were what I was looking at for bringing in new businesses to make us economically stable. There were obvious challenges walking into a new administration, including the need to streamline processes to make it easier for businesses to come into town. I worked very closely with my department heads on that, putting together a mock business to see if there were any inaccuracies or inadequacies we needed to address, more or less working from the ground up. And 2 ½ years into it, we’ve definitely achieved that.”
The Jefferson Washington Township Hospital is a major economic driver, feeding many related businesses that bring in more jobs. There is no designated “downtown” in the Township, but the Route 42 corridor runs through town to the Jersey shore. That’s an area the Mayor says, “We’re trying to liven up. There are a few projects from the New Jersey Department of Transportation on Route 42 that should be started in the next year – some revamp and restyling, and infrastructure attached to that, as well, so we’re pretty excited about that. We also have some new businesses coming on board in that area. It is going to show that we’re moving forward and we’re open for business.”
Washington Township Economic Development Consultant, Nancy Mozzachio, adds, “This is a multi-pronged effort – the hospital hub is extremely important because retail is in a state of flux these days, due to Amazon and various other things. Medical, on the other hand, is growing rapidly. Jefferson Health has a new patient wing under construction at the hospital – that on its own is a $182 million project. The medical piece is key to attracting retail and offices because it provides a full-time day and night population. Unlike other uses, where the daytime population goes home and the night is quiet, the medical remains active and thriving for a 24-hour span. And there are a number of businesses attracted to that, including restaurants and entertainment uses that would benefit.”
The Township also offers a light industrial corridor to attract businesses positioned elsewhere that are interested in land where they can build and, potentially, bring in 100 employees. Another positive is the Black Horse Pike corridor that is being revitalized. Redevelopment zones established in those areas are attractive to developers because of specific incentives associated with them. Ordinances are also being reviewed by Township Council for tax abatement considerations.
“It takes a full team,” says the Mayor. “We come through with a vision but I really entrust all the information with everyone I work with and I greatly appreciate all of our committee people, our volunteers, and our residents. We take every phone call coming into our office, sincerely. It’s their town as well and it’s a group effort. At the end of the day, we’re able to come together and do what’s best for everyone in the community.”
The biggest challenges are providing services – making sure properties are maintained, that trash is picked up, that snow is plowed – the normal services residents expect from a municipality. Over and above that, road maintenance is always a big project that has to be revisited every year, often depending on the impact of weather. Gattinelli notes, “We want to provide residents everything they need to stay in the town. And they do support the local businesses. When I came into office we showed our support to small businesses with a ‘Shop Washington Township’ program. Basically, a partnership between the businesses and the residents. Homeowners have the opportunity to sign onto the program and frequent participating businesses, and those residents earn a credit to their third-quarter taxes.”
Mozzachio acknowledges, “We’ve worked hard to unpack the things that are most important to entrepreneurs. Things like our county workforce development, which has a very active board that goes out and visits entrepreneurs and existing businesses and has them do a checklist of things they might need and how they can supplement that. The county also has a pretty robust microloan program.”
On the green front, Vicky Binetti, a sustainability champion and community volunteer, reports, “Over the last two years, we have created a cross-community green team because we knew it was important to focus on environmental, economic, and social sustainability. The group is a broad pull from our community with all the sectors represented. Washington Township has grown from an agricultural area to a mix of rural and urban. We have a very strong family-oriented, residential component, but we also identify with our rural, historic beginnings. So, we have a lot of regard for open space and our wonderful parks, our trees, our drinking water, and recreational facilities. We’re also raising appreciation of the arts in town.”
“Our portfolio emphasizes that we can only be a sustainable community if our business core is sustainable, as well,” says Binetti. The Township’s sustainability effort promotes potential collaborative programs that benefit by drawing on the skills, resources and strengths of its varied constituencies. For example, “The hospital has been a wonderful partner in our bikeshare program – marrying environmental with health. And we’re sharpening our emergency management and resiliency programs so that we’re sure our communications are reaching the entire community to safeguard them – even during temperature extremes.”
Keeping the community safe is the reason behind establishment of the “Washington Township Saves Lives” program; a partnership of local restaurants and bars with Uber to ensure residents can enjoy themselves, but get home safely. The program has been in operation over a year and has been very successful. Sean Longfellow, Vice President of the Township Council, also touts the Police Department’s “community caretaking” programs, initiated under Police Chief Patrick Gurcsik and through which law enforcement personnel enhance their relationship with the public. Among others, these include “Coffee with a Cop,” an opportunity for casual conversation over coffee and dessert; “Cops and Bobbers,” a summer series with officers grilling hot dogs and burgers and teach community youth to fish; and the Citizens Police Academy. Longfellow notes that “All of these programs add that extra touch of care and communication that makes for a stronger community.”
Five years down the road, the Mayor says, “My main goal is to bring the town back to the premiere community it’s been known as and to see the Black Horse Pike shine again. And it’s happening, thanks to the partnership we have with the New Jersey DOT, and having an economic development consultant who is boots-on-the-ground. It’s a great area. Our park is the largest one in the state. We have an amazing community garden. We have so much community involvement and I just want to give back, so residents and visitors can experience this great place we have.
“I believe we are where we are today because of forward thinking. When you approach running the township with a business view, you get to see the pros and cons. We just needed to move ahead with the times. Years ago, Washington Township had started to build itself as a retail area. And now, those shopping centers want to reface the buildings and we have incentives for them to do that, so they can bring retail stores into the town that are fresh and new. It may be at a slower pace, but we are completely mindful about what shoppers are looking for today.”
AT A GLANCE
Who: Washington Township, New Jersey
What: Historic municipality; pop. 48,500
Where: Gloucester County, New Jersey
Jefferson Washington Township Hospital – www.KennedyIsJefferson.org
Jefferson Health’s Washington Township Campus Continues to Grow to Meet the Community’s Needs
It’s a time of intense growth and progress at Jefferson Health’s Washington Township campus, with new construction underway and enhanced patient-focused services available.
The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Washington Township has added a new $7.2 million, 10,000 square-foot Medical Oncology Infusion Suite to its range of comprehensive patient-focused services. The suite will feature 16 infusion bays, as well as an onsite pharmacy and laboratory.
At nearby Jefferson Washington Township Hospital, the second phase of a $222–million construction project is underway. Following the Spring 2019 opening of the new 8-level, free parking facility, work is underway on a new seven-floor hospital Patient Tower with 90 private rooms, slated for completion in Summer 2021. There will be a new hospital main entrance featuring a spacious, light-filled two-story lobby with patient and visitor amenities that include a café and cafeteria with outdoor dining.
Jefferson has long been a strong supporter of Washington Township, most recently contributing $20,000 in support of the new Bike Share program. The program, which ties in with Mayor Joann Gattinelli’s overall Wellness Campaign, enables community members to reserve a free bike to enjoy at Washington Lake Park.
For more information, visit KennedyIsJefferson.org