The World Cup could be coming to New Jersey in 2026, but locals in one town are not so excited about another soccer and retail venture.
A $485 million plan to redevelop part of Harrison Township is raising concerns about transparency after the site was moved, NJ.com reported. The redevelopment was originally closer to Rowan University’s campus, before moving to 385 acres of former farmland in the Mullica Hill section of Gloucester County.
The proposal calls for an athletic complex and soccer development facility with up to 60 artificial turf and grass fields, along with 200,000 square feet of bars, restaurants and shops. The primary tenant of the space would be EDP Soccer, a youth league and tournament host.
The previous plan called for 1,600 homes and 1 million square feet each of retail and office space. Backers of that project struggled for 15 years to make progress, according to NJ.com.
The change in plans, though, prompted some to call foul on the seeming secrecy behind the switch, which came about in 2020 after developer Echo Hill approached township officials with a proposal to buy the 385-acre parcel.
“We had no idea it had moved over to this side of town,” Ruth Knoebel told NJ.com. “It seemed mostly nobody knew about it.”
One concern — and this will come as a shock to those familiar with New Jersey development battles — involves traffic.
Some community members say the soccer tournaments that could take place at the venue would draw too many vehicles. The redevelopment plan estimates more than 11,000 could come for an event, but the project only accommodates parking for 4,000 onsite. Generally, event organizers handle that by busing drivers in from other parking lots.
Officials assured residents they have the community’s best interests in mind and will provide updates at future meetings.
“What I want them to understand is, unlike the perception that’s out there, [that] we, the mayor and the committee are not the enemy,” said Mayor Louis Manzo.
[NJ.com] — Holden Walter-Warner