Three proposals submitted to the Gloucester County Improvement Authority this week have raised the prospect that new development at the RiverWinds complex in West Deptford is on the horizon.
Presenting familiar ideas - for housing, shops, offices, and a hotel and conference center - the three developers laid out their competing visions for about 60 acres of available land. The projects would help complete the 1,100-acre redevelopment, whose origins predate 2000.
"The fact that there are three of them is promising," Mayor Denice DiCarlo told township and authority officials Wednesday morning during the unveiling of the proposals, solicited in late May. "I couldn't be more excited."
Set against the Delaware River, the sweeping redevelopment site, which includes open space and wetlands, was billed as the town's answer to its lack of a Main Street area, but a number of problems - coupled with the recession - derailed components of the project. In 2008, for instance, a developer for the long-proposed hotel and conference center filed for bankruptcy.
The town's approval of more than $50 million in bonds for the community center and site improvements, plus an agreement that made the town responsible for a $10 million loan for a golf course, contributed to a sizable debt load. (In the $32.5 million fiscal 2014 municipal budget, debt service accounted for 31 percent of appropriations.) And expected revenue from the private developments, such as the hotel, never materialized.
Still, many in West Deptford deem the completed components of the project a success: an impressive community center, athletic facilities, senior housing and apartments, a restaurant, and a golf course with views of the Philadelphia skyline.
The site, a former dredge spoils dump, was once considered for further dredge placement. The renewed effort to bring new construction to RiverWinds has some officials hopeful that the project will reach its full potential.
Companies that submitted proposals for the 60 acres at RiverWinds, spread across four areas, are already familiar names in the town and county: Fieldstone Associates, which had an agreement to develop housing at RiverWinds that was revoked in 2011 amid disagreements with the town; Sora Northeast, which oversees development on Rowan Boulevard in Glassboro; and Jaworski Redevelopment Enterprises, under former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, whose golf management outfit operates the RiverWinds course.
While all include some housing, the project summaries range in length and specificity.
Fieldstone's proposal outlines "upscale rental residences"; waterfront, high-end attached single-family "carriage houses"; a mixed-use neighborhood, including retail along RiverWinds Drive, and a call center; and, near the golf course, "golf-oriented" apartments and town houses, retail, and "golf-related amenities."
Sora's plan includes 216 "luxury" apartments and 90,000 square feet of retail and commercial space facing the river; 74 "upscale" townhouses with views of the golf course near 72 apartments and more retail and commercial space; a country club with a pro shop and banquet facility; and a 150-room hotel with a conference facility, as well as a restaurant and lounge that would lead out to a marina with boat slips.
Jaworski's proposal speaks of "golf villa townhouses, condominiums and apartments"; waterfront townhouses, condos, and apartments; commercial and/or professional offices; a hotel and "potential marina"; and possible retail.
Fieldstone's filing singles out the importance of a "public/private partnership" to such projects, and the Jaworski and Sora proposals include payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements - which, according to the request for proposals, the township said it would consider.
West Deptford and improvement authority officials said Wednesday that they would review the proposals and meet again before coming to a recommendation as to which, if any, project to pursue.
Jaworski's firm, which has a long-term lease for the golf course, has a right of first refusal on the 15-acre site eyed for the hotel and conference center.