Local , county and state officials were "all aboard" on a project to develop land near the into a bustling business district and saw the beginning stages of their vision come to fruition Wednesday during a groundbreaking ceremony on Towaco Crossing and Rails Steakhouse.
Developers of Towaco Crossing, LLC, invited politicians, relatives and friends to the site where the 18,000-foot restaurant, six retail businesses (taking up 1,200 feet) and six residential units are being built. Speakers of note at the event included state Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (District 26), Morris County Freeholders Tom Mastrangelo and Hank Lyon, Montville Township Mayor Tim Braden and Montville Township Committeeman Jim Sandham. Montville residents Jared Dylan and Zach Matari sang the National Anthem and Anthony Garrett, an architect from Bilow Garrett Group who worked on the project, delivered opening remarks, thanking Project Manager James Stathis for his work.
All of the speakers made it clear in their remarks their hope and confidence that once constructed, Towaco Crossing will become a "destination" for not only Montville residents, but residents from throughout the county.
"Towaco Crossing will not be the end of your commute, it will be a destination and Rails will be a centerpiece," Sandham, who was mayor at the time of the approval of the project, said.
Sandham spoke about the lengthy approval process the developers endured for the project and their several appearances before local land use boards. But he stressed how excited the township is that the development is becoming a reality.
"Today, we are laying the cornerstone of a dream," he said.
Braden said that the township is highly ranked in publications for being a great place to live, but that the development fills a certain void.
"If there is one knock on the town, it's that we do not have a town center," he said.
He said he expects Towaco Crossing to become a sort of community gathering place in the township which does not have a downtown area.
Several officials spoke about what the project means for the economy and the jobs the development will provide in both the construction phase and afterwards. DeCroce said projects like these are imperative to saving New Jersey's economy, but that particularly in Montville, this development could also enhance the quality of life for residents. She described a scenario where a couple may want to see a Broadway show in Manhattan and enjoy a meal at Rails and do some shopping at Towaco Crossing before boarding a train at the Towaco train station.
She also emphasized the importance of small businesses, like the ones that will be housed at the development, for the economy of the state.
"Vibrant and sustainable small businesses are a critical element for our economic recovery here in New Jersey," she said.
Lyon, a Towaco native, said he lives around the corner from the development site and that he will be walking there frequently once the project is complete.
"I think this is great for Towaco and the entire county to bring jobs here, particularly in this economy," he said.
Mastrangelo also spoke of the widespread effect the project will have on the area and said he expects visitors from neighboring towns and counties to come to Towaco and experience all that Montville Township has to offer in the development.
"This is not only great for Montville, this is great for Morris County," he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the size of Rails.