Carteret To Celebrate Washington Avenue Redevelopment & New Businesses

Carteret, NJ – Mayor Dan Reiman recently joined with the Carteret Department of Economic Development and the Carteret Redevelopment Agency in announcing that a ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening celebration will be hosted to welcome new businesses to the town’s Washington Avenue Redevelopment District. The event will begin at 3:00 p.m., Friday January 25th.

Along with “Who’s Next” barbershop, the celebration will showcase “Supreme Dry Cleaners,” who have relocated to the revitalized commercial thoroughfare.

To both the owners of the dry cleaning service and the town, the relocation represents “a success story, representing the marriage of the public and private sector in an effort to breathe life back into our commercial corridors,” according to Mayor Reiman.

Purchased by Jesus and Mercedes Merino in 2001, Supreme Dry Cleaners resided on Lower Roosevelt Avenue Business District, which served as a commercial center for over a century, but experienced economic decline over the past 40 years. Carteret obtained Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) status for Lower Roosevelt Avenue in 1994. To date, New Jersey has established approximately 32 Urban Enterprise Zones, covering 37 economically distressed cities throughout the State. On average, the UEZ Authority designates about 30% of a city as a UEZ, which benefits businesses by allowing customers within the designated area the right to purchase most items and services without paying sales tax, and Corporation Business Tax credits to businesses hiring certain new employees. Approximately 40% of Carteret has received UEZ designation.

A range of market, socioeconomic, environmental, and traffic studies, and a number of community meetings held in 2000, established that the majority of buildings in the LRABD were “substandard, unsafe, unsanitary…. and conducive to unwholesome living or working conditions.” In 2003, a Redevelopment Plan was approved for the LRABD, calling for the demolition of approximately 40 structures within 8.5 acres to make way for new mixed-use development. Kaplan was designated the developer in 2004, and completed plans for a $65 million community comprised of over 300 luxury “Brownstone” style townhomes, along with shops and eateries. The project will be complemented by Carteret’s $7 million in Streetscape improvements.

According to the Borough’s Redevelopment Agency, the 14 businesses that were operational preceding the project have been relocated, or otherwise financially compensated. In the Fall of 2007, Supreme Cleaners, who had become popular among residents through the quality and affordability of their services, began working with Mayor Reiman, the Carteret Redevelopment Agency, and the Office of Economic Development to relocate. By the end of 2007, the business had found a new home at 47 Washington Avenue.

Washington Avenue represents another business district being revitalized through local redevelopment strategies, along with grants and loans made available through the town’s Business Partnership. In October 2004, the Borough Administration approved the Washington Avenue Façade Renovation Program, calling for aesthetic improvements to existing structures, complemented by $2.2 million in Streetscape enhancements. Lower Washington Avenue was declared a Redevelopment Area in March 2006 by the Planning Board. Since then, 13 businesses have received façade improvements including new awning, outdoor lighting, windows, and signage, as well as the addition of 31 parking spaces. The Borough has also relocated several of its bus stops to this thoroughfare, establishing it as a commuter hub along with its mixed-use amenities.

These measures along with grant and loans have allowed for the establishment of several new businesses, and the revitalization of existing ones. The Carteret Business Partnership, established in 2003, represents the combined efforts of both the public and private sector in Carteret, pooling resources from the UEZ, CDBG, and Special Improvement District (SID), as well as private investments totaling over $88 million in Carteret alone. To date, 20 businesses have participated in the loan program, benefitting from $685,000 in loans since 2004, $509,000 earmarked specifically for small businesses.

Supreme Cleaners’ relocation represents a capital investment of $150,000. In addition to facilitating the move, the loan has allowed for its upgrade to organic equipment that will eliminate the use of the carcinogen percholoroethylene from its cleaning process. Owners Jesus and Mercedes have expressed their gratitude to the Business Partnership:

“We’re grateful for being able to find a better home, but also to finally have the ability to provide environmentally-friendly services,” commented Mrs. Merino.

“Who’s Next” barbershop has received a $5,000 grant, and will also be welcomed to Washington Avenue at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

“These are the kinds of improvements we’ve had in our crosshairs for 5 years now,” Mayor Reiman added. “Washington Avenue represents a rich piece of our local history, having once been a vibrant commercial corridor. With state of the art and environmentally safe businesses like Supreme Cleaners emerging, we are not only seeing this area returned to its former stature, but also moving into the future. With the continuation of these grant and loan programs we are expecting Washington Avenue to grow into an economic focal point in Carteret.”

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