Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Cherry Hill shrugs off loss of Subaru headquarters

There are no hard feelings. Though Subaru of America's decision to move its U.S. headquarters from Cherry Hill to Camden stung, township officials are downplaying its impact.

There are no hard feelings.

Though Subaru of America's decision to move its U.S. headquarters from Cherry Hill to Camden stung, township officials are downplaying its impact.

They say that they have moved on, and that the loss of tax revenue will be small, given the municipality's $8 billion ratable base.

"Cherry Hill is never happy to lose any of our businesses, no matter how small or large," Mayor Chuck Cahn said last week. "Cherry Hill will be fine no matter what we lose, because we are always gaining new businesses.

"When one door closes, many doors open."

Still, the township made a valiant effort to keep its longtime tenant. "We are disappointed, and our first priority was always to keep Subaru here," Cahn's spokeswoman, Bridget Palmer, said. "We put everything forward into keeping Subaru in Cherry Hill and worked very closely with the developers and tried to offer incentives to keep them here and in place."

The township's two-year effort to keep Subaru ended this month. Camden offered a better deal - thanks to major carrots under the Economic Opportunity Act. The 11/2-year-old law is intended to spur development in areas that need it most.

On Dec. 9, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved $118 million in tax incentives for Subaru and $40 million for Cooper Health System to relocate some of its administrative operations to Camden.

The deal was too good to pass up, said Michael McHale, a spokesman for Subaru of America.

"Generally, the Camden bid was the overall best package, and there were also bids from the Navy Yard and a few others," he said. "Unfortunately, the circumstances are we have to move out. But that's the reality of it, and we maintain a good relationship with the township."

Cooper Health System intends to move 353 back-office jobs from Cherry Hill and Mount Laurel to Federal Street in downtown Camden and add 19 jobs in the city.

"Jobs aren't expected to move for at least a year or two, so there will be no immediate impact whatsoever, " Palmer said of the Cooper move, "and there should not be a tax impact at all." She said most of the jobs moving to Camden were in Mount Laurel.

Subaru has long had a major presence in Cherry Hill as a top-10 international automaker. It is the township's 19th-largest taxpayer and pays $538,000 annually in real estate taxes. That money is divided among the county, school district, Fire Department, and Cherry Hill Township, which gets about $80,700, or 15 percent.

Subaru of America has been at the 12-acre site, known as Subaru Plaza, at 2235 Route 70, since 1986.

McHale said the company planned to stay in Cherry Hill until the end of 2016. Even after the move, it will still pay real estate taxes in full to the township because it owns the building.

McHale said that as sales grew - from 180,000 vehicles in 2007 to more than 500,000 this year - personnel mushroomed and space became an issue. "We are quite tight, and being split up over two sites is not ideal," he said.

More than 500 Subaru employees are currently scattered among the Cherry Hill building, a property in Pennsauken, and elsewhere in the area. All will move into one campus at the Camden site, next to the Campbell Soup Co. building in the Gateway District.

"We can put more people in there and have ways to extend the building," McHale said.

Though Cahn said he was sad to see Subaru leave, those same Subaru employees "will still shop here, eat here, and take advantage of all that the township offers."

He said Camden's revitalization benefits the entire county.

"It helps the rest of us as residents of Camden County," he said. "What is good for Camden is good for all of Camden County, and we all want to see Camden developed in a very positive way."

Though Camden's gain is Cherry Hill's loss, don't feel too sorry for the township, said Paul Stridick, director of community development. He said the township could barely keep up with demand for new sites.

"A lot of businesses are moving in, and we have lots of applications for every major road, including Routes 30, 38, and 70, and Haddonfield Road.

"We're revitalizing old shopping centers and creating new jobs," he said. He cited the Kimco Shopping Center at Brace Road and Route 561 (Haddonfield-Berlin Road) as an example.

He said Kennedy Hospital had received approval for a $100 million project to redo its health campus, including a new parking garage and entrance at Cooper Landing Road and Chapel Avenue. Groundbreaking is set for spring.

The township was also investigating four potential redevelopment zones that could be ripe for upgrades.

"We're revitalizing the worn-out pieces of Cherry Hill, such as old motel sites along Route 70, Cuthbert Boulevard, and Route 38," Stridick said.

The township wants two large sites that have sat vacant for years upgraded: a 180,000-square-foot building on Ester Brook Lane near Cherry Hill Industrial Park, and the old Syms property at Route 70 and Marlkress Road.

"We're revitalizing that stretch of Route 70 one building at a time," Stridick said.

Subaru's move four miles away "certainly did not come as a shock," Cahn said. "We were very much in touch with them the entire process."

At the same time, Cahn said: "We . . . are talking to other corporate offices interested in moving to that site. We've moved on."