CNBNEWS Point of View: Bring Community Pride Back to Gloucester City
"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
~Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909)
BY BILL CLEARY
GLOUCESTER CITY NJ--As you drive north on Broadway from Brooklawn into Gloucester City, the first thing you see is the Gloucester City water tower at the Broadway and Jersey Avenue intersection. The city-owned property is surrounded by unkept shrubs, and weeds, some higher than six feet tall. The vacant lot on the side of the site is also in a similar condition. On either side of the plot is a rusty cyclone fence, some of it falling down. The city is now using the site to pile fill dirt and stones. Every so often you will see a few city highway workers cutting the grass, but the unkept shrubbery is untouched.
As you drive further into the city you have to negotiate a road that is filled with humps and bumps until you reach the Kohler Street traffic light. Broadway, a county highway, was repaved in the mid -90‘s. However, this section of the road wasn’t fixed. Why, is a mystery? Even more baffling is why, after a decade or more, it remains in such poor condition.
Sixty plus years ago, when I was growing up in Gloucester City, there was an entirely different picture. The water tower property was occupied by a tax paying car dealer who sold new Chrysler vehicles. Trattner Motors (Henry Trattner) and later Art Turney Ford had a thriving business. On the other side of the street was Toby’s Greenhouse and the 7Up bottling company.
That section of South Broadway was actually maintained, and a joy to ride on, unlike today.
The city water tower was erected sometime in the late 80‘s, early 90‘s. Why in the world the city would erect a water tower on prime real estate is mind boggling. What is even more disturbing is the fact that today the city is not maintaining the property and is using it for dirt and stone storage.
Heading further south on Broadway, out in front of the CVS Shopping Center, Dunkin Donuts has plasteredthe entrance to the shopping center with cardboard and vinyl signs announcing special sales. There is ordinance prohibiting such signs, but for some reason the city housing office has decided not to enforce it.
A little further up the highway is the Delaware Valley Landscaping and Irrigation business, 357 South Broadway. Their property should be a model for every other business and residential property in Gloucester City. Kudos to the owners. Years ago that building was a produce stand owned by the Klaus family.
If you enter the city on Broadway from the north, you will pass a large number of Del Monte truck trailers on one side. On the other side of the street there is a storage yard containing a large number of rusty construction equipment. The property is owned by Holt Marine Terminal. Most properties from that point north are residential with some commercial stores scattered in between. Many of the stores are empty or are up for sale.
One empty commercial property that stands out sits at the corner of Broadway and Middlesex Street. When I was a teenager the building was owned by Billy Slim. It was called Slim’s Gulf Gas Station. After it closed, the building was used for a grocery store and a pizza store. The last owner was the Gloucester News Agency. A mural was painted on the front and side of the building. I thought it was attractive, however, the city housing office felt different and told the man he had to remove it. Upset with the way he was being treated the owner just closed his store and moved out of the city.
Now, decades have past, and the building, with no roof, sits empty. For several years this eyesore was owned by Gloucester City. After the city removed a buried gas tank, it sold the property to Bob Booth. Two years ago Booth received permission from the city planning board to use the property for an office. He also got permission to add a second story to the new building that will be used for living quarters. He is the president of the Gloucester City Business Association, treasurer of the Gloucester City Economic Development Corporation, and the owner of Gloucester Travel Agency.
If our city is ever going to attract businesses and people to settle in our community, the unkept and dilapidated properties, both city owned and private must be fixed.
The sooner they are repaired the better.
After all, as the author of the proverb said, “First impressions are ever lasting impressions..”
related article: Bring Community Pride Back to Gloucester City
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