PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. – Phillipsburg could become an entertainment destination if a proposal for a waterfront hotel, apartments, and concert space becomes reality.
Town council went over the concept at its meeting Tuesday. The plan presented by Rathi Niyogi and Tatiana Eck, principals in Stateliner United LLC, met with unanimous approval.
“This will be the first major renovation in the town that I’ve ever seen,” said Councilman Robert Fulper.
Niyogi and Eck said Phillipsburg can draw visitors, just as Easton does with its restaurants and festivals. Both towns will benefit from increased activity on the east and west sides of the Delaware River, Niyogi said.
“The main idea of our project is to reconnect the city with the river,” Eck said. Pedestrian access from Main Street to Union Square would be improved. A parking area and apartments would be put up north of the Free Bridge, with a hotel and concert space to the south. There would be open space along the river, and the boat launch off Main Street would be preserved.
The developers estimated that their plan could bring 150,000 to 200,000 people annually to town. Their limited liability corporation bears the nickname for Phillipsburg High School athletic teams.
“We are in the Phillipsburg business,” said Niyogi. That means turning the riverfront into a hub of arts, music, entertainment and recreation. One of the quirky elements of their plan is a 10-person driver-less shuttle bus to take visitors from the parking area.
Eck said an “American Microbrewery Hall of Fame” would also bring attention to the town, while the boutique hotel would create 30 jobs. Businesses catering to visitors attending outdoor films and concerts, and going to art galleries would also create jobs.
“We’re going to make something beautiful,” Niyogi said.
The developers did not provide a timeline during Tuesday’s meeting, and no vote was taken on the preliminary plan.
Council Vice President Frank McVey said the waterfront would be an $80 million project.
Council member Danielle DeGerolamo said “the funding seems solid.” McVey said the 75-page plan includes “zero fluff.” President Randy Piazza said McVey’s familiarity with the development team helped move the project forward.
The plan may be made public within a few weeks. Township attorney Richard Wenner asked for and received council approval to review consideration of eminent domain, the forced sale of land, because the Stateliner United plan will require acquisition of private property.
Council member Harry Wyant said eminent domain is good for the town’s “toolbox” as a way to move projects forward.
In other business, council held its first reading of a plan to charge a 2% tax on medical marijuana. A cannabis dispensary is proposed for Main Street, but has not opened yet.
Council also heard from Michael Lebovitz, representing Romark Logistics. Romark operates a warehouse off Route 22 in Lopatcong Township, just east of the Phillipsburg border. Lebovitz said truck traffic is sometimes on residential streets, and he said Romark is working with Google Maps and other services to fix that.
“We are working diligently to get the trucks off the wrong roads,” he said.
Council also named a new business administrator, Robert Bengivenga Jr., who attended the Zoom meeting. He said his goal is good, efficient government.