EDISON – With two recreational projects moving forward and the proposed new community center location, the vicinity in and around the Edison Towne Square is becoming a booming recreational hub.
“We are excited for the recreational facilities,” Mayor Thomas Lankey said.
More than a decade ago, a $1.2 million lifestyle center was envisioned for the 98-acre site. The center is on the former Ford Motor Company site on Route 1.
In 2006, Hartz Mountain Industries proposed to develop the site and called for a hotel, a movie theater, restaurants, office space and a bank.
Since 2000, when a 152,000-square-foot Sam’s Club membership warehouse and gas station opened, businesses have been coming to the site, including Topgolf, which is an entertainment and event venue with point-scoring golf games, Starbucks and Zinburger Wine and Burger Bar.
“Topgolf is phenomenal,” Lankey said. “People come from Pennsylvania and New York … it’s a fun place to be.”
Lankey said the two proposed recreational projects at the Edison Towne Square include an iFly Indoor Skydiving facility and an LA Fitness gym. Also on the table are a restaurant and another entertainment facility, he said.
The new 100,000-square-foot community center is proposed next to Paterniti Park on Vineyard Road. Lankey said with the closure of the Dorothy K. Drwal Stelton Community Center on Plainfield Avenue, the township is in dire need of a community center.
The Minnie B. Veal Community Center is on Grove Avenue. Municipal officials have been looking for a new space for the Stelton Community Center, which is a former school. Parts of the building were constructed in the 1930s and the 1950s.
The township purchased a property at 48 Ethel Road, which became the new home of the Edison Sheltered Workshop in July 2018. The workshop, which utilized the Stelton Community Center, provides vocational rehabilitation services to individuals who have a disability, who are residents of Middlesex County and who are at least 16 years old.
The Ethel Road building and the Thomas Jefferson Middle School are housing other recreational programs, which had utilized the Stelton Community Center.
Lankey said officials are working to finalize a plan to build the community center. Three public meetings had been held to obtain feedback on what members of the public would want in a new community center.
“We are moving forward with the selection of an architect,” he said.
As far as funding for a new community center, Lankey has proposed a $811.3 million new public-private partnership – long-term 40-year lease agreement – with Suez North America, a Paramus-based water and wastewater company.
The proposed agreement, which will have a public hearing on March 28, provides necessary $496.5 million investments for infrastructure improvements; provides the township with a sizable “upfront payment” of $105 million, in which the township will use to retire its existing debt and utilize a small portion for the design, development and construction of the long discussed new municipal community center; rate protection; and keeping the senior freeze intact.
Lankey said even if the agreement is not approved, township officials will move forward with the building of a new community center.
Discussion of a new community center began in 2017. Lankey has said he does not want to rush the process since building a new community center is not something Edison has done for more than 50 years.
The Township Council approved a resolution to retain PS&S Integrated Services, Warren, Somerset County, for their professional architectural and engineering services for the planning and development of a new community center in the amount not to exceed $125,500 at a meeting on Feb. 27.