Mayor optimistic that Cherry Hill will rebound after Subaru’s exit

 Subaru of America headquarters at 2235 Marlton Pike in Cherry Hill, NJ. (Image via Google maps)

Subaru of America headquarters at 2235 Marlton Pike in Cherry Hill, NJ. (Image via Google maps)

It’s not like Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn was crazy about the decision of Subaru headquarters — a local presence he described as “iconic” — to leave his town for Camden. Subaru announced the decision late last year, citing state tax incentives as a major reason.
But ultimately, Cahn said he has no hard feelings about the move.
 
First of all, he said, plenty of potential tenants are already asking about the property. He wouldn’t specify which tenants, but said it’s possible the property might end up being converted to residential units. Regardless, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if a new occupant is already lined up to move in by the time Subaru moves out come late 2016 or early 2017.
 
Secondly, he figures Cherry Hill will ultimately benefit from the arrangement anyway.
“What is good for Camden is good for the entire region,” he said.
 
And it’s not like Cherry Hill is in danger of going bankrupt. The town has always done pretty well as a retail center, located as it is at the intersection of major transportation corridors including Route 295 and the New Jersey Turnpike. The Cherry Hill Mall, opened in 1961, was the main retail destination for years. The redevelopment of the former Garden State Park Racetrack off Route 70 into retail, office and residential space increased that trend.
 
But Cahn said Cherry Hill isn’t solely a retail-based economy. A recent business trend in Cherry Hill has been the development of medical facilities, including LourdesCare at Cherry Hill and Kennedy Health System.
 
Cahn, who recently announced his intention to seek another term as mayor, sees some specific challenges on the horizon. One of the big ones will be the ongoing question of how to maintain an aging infrastructure while keeping taxes down. He’s also trying to keep houses from being built on the site of Woodcrest Country Club.
 
Cahn said he’s made business development in the town a major priority. In fact, he bristled at the word “politician,” saying that he sees being mayor as a continuation of his career as a businessman, from which he’s ostensibly retired.
 
There’s plenty of overlap between being a mayor and being a businessman, he said.
“Our customers are our residents and businesses,” he said. “You have to provide an environment of satisfaction and customer service.”
 
As with a business, he said, you have employees to oversee. You need to be fiscally responsible and efficient. And you sometimes have to deal with government regulations — “things that handcuff you a little bit.”
 
One major difference is that he doesn’t collect a paycheck as mayor. Sure, he technically gets a full-time salary, but he donates it back to the town. Any given week, Cahn said, he puts in 30 to 70 hours of work related to the job.
 
Evesham Mayor Randy Brown recently expressed a desire to change the part-time position of mayor in his town to an official full-time job, in order to deal with a population that’s grown substantially over the years. Brown cited Cherry Hill as an example of a municipality with such an arrangement.
 
Cahn said such a decision would, of course, be up to the government officials and residents of Evesham. But he’s not convinced that establishing a full-time mayor is a great idea.
Not everybody would be in a position like himself — retired and able to put in full-time hours. That might cut back on the pool of potential mayoral candidates.
“There’s not many people in the world as crazy as I am,” Cahn said.
 
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This post is part of our South Jersey Politics Blog

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