By Will Morey, Cape May County Freeholder
Our communities are important ecosystems: the residents, second homeowners, businesses, schools, organizations, natural environment, infrastructure, and more all connect to form a complex and interdependent network. When one element of a community is struggling, it makes it harder for the others to thrive and adversely affects value as well as quality of life. When it’s all working, however, the “whole is way greater than the sum of its parts!”
An important role of community leaders and elected officials is to work together to create the right environment for all elements of a community to flourish and support the functioning of the whole, in a sustainable way.
The above is a key driver behind the creation of Cape May County’s Municipal Redevelopment Initiative and its foremost goal: to engage and address the pieces of our community networks whose contribution has depreciated in value to such a level that a significant boost is needed beyond what any one town can provide.
Building upon our learnings from the redevelopment efforts underway at the County Airport (including the recent opening of Tech Village), this new Initiative’s first engagement and official pilot project is the County’s collaboration with the City of Wildwood and other entities to engage upon the Pacific Avenue/Downtown Redevelopment Project. While many of you may remember Pacific Avenue as a bustling hub, the district has been struggling for many years. Walking down Pacific Ave today, you’ll see hopeful signs of life and bright spots in the form of functioning businesses, but you’ll also see too many vacant storefronts and abandoned properties.
With the full support of all parties involved, the Freeholders, the County and the City of Wildwood have signed a Collaboration Agreement, the aim of which is to bring new life to the downtown center core and stir residential development north, south, and west of that core. The project will feature new investment tax incentives, and include improvements to public space, the purchasing and demolishing abandoned and/or distressed properties, and improvement of land for sale to developers, business owners, and future homeowners, breathing new life into the area.
Successful redevelopment projects require expertise, partnership, strong planning, and serious commitment. They also demand very high levels of what I like to call “fierce collaboration.” All stakeholders must be engaged. Therefore, as we move through the redevelopment process, we are taking care to understand the needs and desires of a broad range of community perspectives and interests and assure that we integrate them all into a well vetted redevelopment plan. As such, we are making proactive efforts to receive input not only by forming a Redevelopment Advisory Committee with various representatives, but also by seeking separate input from community groups and individual community members, via public meetings and other methods.
By joining together and sharing resources and information, redevelopment can reach further and make a bigger impact, without causing an undue burden on any one group. Fact is, when we commit ourselves and pool our interests, our expertise, and our finances, we can transform distressed areas into special places. And, with that, comes the restoration of community and enhancement of property value, a benefit that is felt County-wide.
Clearly, when we reinvest in our communities, we take important steps forward to making them great places to live, work, and visit. And, when we accomplish this, we can’t help but create enhanced quality of life and value along the way.
Ordered and paid for by Morey and Pierson for Freeholder, 943 Central Ave, Ocean City 08226.