Domain editor

New Jersey City may use prominent estate to redevelop corner with pizzeria, 3 houses

A Camden County borough recently approved a plan to redevelop a former Catholic church and other nearby private property possibly using its eminent domain power, through which public entities can force the sale of private property.

The redevelopment of the former Church of the Sacred Heart in Mount Ephraim, three occupied single-family homes and a popular pizza place is part of a plan to create a 2-acre footprint on a busy corner property.

The city planning council voted unanimously last week to recommend that the Borough Commission approve a resolution designating an area requiring redevelopment for the targeted properties. A report including details on why this would be in the public interest was submitted to local land use officials in July. Based on this report and an explanation from an urban planner from Key Engineers, who wrote it, the council made its recommendation.

But not everyone is in favor of the plan.

Anthony Altomare, owner of Tony Roni Pizza Franchise, said on Friday he still didn’t know what was going on and why.

“I don’t understand how they would make the prominent local estate; that’s what we’re trying to figure out, ”Altomare told NJ Advance Media. “I don’t really believe this is in the eminent domain.”

The borough bought the church property for $ 775,000 in August, Borough Clerk Terry Shannon said on Friday. She said a developer for the planned redevelopment area has not yet been chosen. She added that there had been preliminary discussions on a Lidl specialty grocery chain arrives on property.

“I believe there was a developer who was interested in the property for this purpose, but I don’t think anything was finalized,” Shannon said on Friday.

Tony Roni Pizzeria is on the corner of Black Horse Pike, Route 168 and Kings Highway. The church property surrounds it with a frontage on Kings Highway and Black Horse Pike, once a main road to Shore destinations.

The church has not been used for 20 years. The congregation now prays at a Catholic Church in the Diocese of Camden in a nearby town.

Altomare, which operates eight other pizza restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia area but no others in New Jersey, does not own the Mount Ephraim property. But he said he had a long-term lease and the restaurant there was operated by a former employee with whom he had partnered in a franchise.

Still, he wants answers on what will happen next.

“We are part of the community,” Altomare said. “They can’t just throw us out on the streets.

Shannon said the redevelopment area resolution is not currently on the agenda for the borough committee meeting this month and will likely not be added until an agreement with a developer is reached. will not have been concluded.

There has been no response to requests for comment from Borough Mayor Michael “Traz” Torvinsky, who also sits on the town planning council that acted last Monday, from the owner of the pizzeria and three owners of single-family homes. in the proposed redevelopment area.

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Bill Duhart can be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com.