By Bill Cleary
WATERFRONT RESTAURANT ON HOLD AGAIN-Come to find out that Pat O'Donnell has backed out of the deal to build a restaurant on the pier at the old Coast Guard Base, King Street and the Delaware River. The recession is part of the reason I was told, Pat like the rest of us has lost money because of the economy. As such the City is back to square one and is advertising for RFP's (Request For Proposal) to get the project back on track. Do you know anyone with a lot of cash in the restaurant business? Only time will tell how long it will take to get a response to the RFP's.
What we do know is the City has been talking about this restaurant since 1980. I was 36 years old back then when I first started to write about it. If the past is any reflection on the future I doubt if I will be alive to see this dream become a reality.
The deed to the Coast Guard Base was given to the City in 1991 for $1. Once we had possession of the property the building that housed the Coast Guard offices and sleeping quarters should have been reconstructed into the restaurant and the remaining property developed into a park and marina. Up on the top of that building is a large room surrounded by glass with a view of the Philadelphia skyline. There was your restaurant.
Very simple idea.
Instead the governing body at that time decided we should have another study done...cost $100,000 or more. Following the completion of that study which basically said the same thing as previous studies, nothing happens. Who comes along but Tom/Leo Holt, who promised the residents years ago that his marine terminal would not encroached any further on the city's waterfront then Monmouth Street. Some people's promises mean nothing.
In 1996 or thereabout Holt says he will build the restaurant and develop the property in return he wants the Coast Guard building for his corporate offices. Sure why not says the City of Gloucester City. We know Mr. Holt is a man of his word. Holt signed the agreement under the name Cresmont, one of his many corporations. In 2001 the City and Holt are feuding. The battle ends up in court. The new agreement gives Holt the Coast Guard building for 99 years. Any plans of the City using that building for a restaurant or any other idea goes out the window. In return Holt will pay an annual rent of $152,000 a year in lieu of taxes without any cost of living increase. In other words if the dollar keeps losing its value at the end of the 99 years Holt will be occupying that building for about a $1 annually.
Any wonder why Gloucester City is always talking about waterfront development and surrounding towns have long ago surpassed our City.
WATERFRONT INFRASTRUTURE IMPROVEMENTS-Once again the City is making repairs and improvements to the walkway along the Delaware River at Proprietors Park. Back in the 90's the City put up a railing along that stretch blocking your view, when you are sitting down, of the river plus a brick walkway was installed, new lights and benches and a multi-million dollar marina without electric or water. This time the plans call for extending the present riverwalk from the Park around the Coast Guard pier to Monmouth Street. The plans include new lighting, iron fencing, teak benches, and trash receptacles. Completion date in November 2010. Cost for the Freedom Pier Walkway is $387,391. The low bidder was Bud Concrete of Sewell. Funding is provided by a NJ Green Acres Matching Grant.
This will be followed by three additional phases of construction which will include the repair of the bulkhead sheathing on the Coast Guard pier, new transit boat dock and a 5200 square foot restaurant with a completion date of 2012.
Mayor James said in the press release announcing the plans, "Myself along with Council will stay committed to improving our valuable waterfront. This project will be the catalyst for future economic development in our King Street business district. "
SO WHAT IS THE ANSWER? The other day out walking the dogs near the woods in our neighborhood I ran into a man who was wrapped in a blanket. He had spent the night sleeping in the woods because he was evicted from his apartment that day. He told me that his SSI was cut from $700 a month to $400 a month and now he couldnt afford the rent.
He was in his late 40's I'm guessing, and grew up in Gloucester City. I recognized his name and knew his parents; both his mom and dad are deceased. So sad to see someone like this gentleman homeless. I know we talked about the homeless issue a few months back. But most of us only give the homeless problem a passing thought every once in a while.
He said he hadn't eaten in a day and a half. Although he didn't ask for a handout I gave him what money I had so he could get some food.
That night the rain came. As I tried to sleep I started to think about this man and others who are homeless trying to find shelter to keep dry. The only shelter that is open in the immediate area is located in Camden City. And many of the homeless do not like going to the shelter because they are afraid for their safety.
We can send people to the moon, spent trillions in stimulus funds to bail out banks and big corporations, hold star studded telethons to raise money for people in another country etc. etc. Yet we have people walking around in our own country/town that haven't eaten in several days or have shelter from the elements.
We need to do more.
CHANNEL 19 NOT WORKING-I asked Howard Clark why there is no picture or sound on the local TV Channel 19. Besides being UEZ director Howard operates the local channel network. Incidentally Howard and his partner Tadd supply the broadcasting equipment and volunteer their time for free. Any money they do get from the few ads on the channel goes into keeping the equipment operating. Howard said the problem is with Comcast, and the level of transmission they are supply to the City. It has to be increased. He suggested everyone not receiving Channel 19 to call Comcast and complain. "I have already told them about the problem as people keep calling me. Maybe if they received more complaints they will do something about it."