At the juncture of Cliffwood Avenue and the railroad tracks in Cliffwood is a large fenced in commercial property with a factory, a high watertower, and a dedicated rail siding. During my thirty years in the area, the plant was first Midland Glass, then Anchor Glass, and now it is just a large vacant facility (See photo of Midland Glass plant and rail siding in Railroads of Monmouth County).
Anchor Glass Container Corporation announced that it was closing its factory in Cliffwood in January 1996, according to the NY Times. The company, based in Tampa and with 14 manufacturing plants nationwide, was paying a much higher rate for electricity at its Cliffwood plant than elsewhere, according to Public Utilities Reports in February 1996. Since the business was profitable only on a tight margin, Anchor Glass sought a reduction in electric rates from JCP&L. Failing that, they promoted municipalization of the electric utility with the Aberdeen town council.
Public Utilities Reports provided a nice synopsis of the company's situation as of 1995:
Anchor, selling more than $1.1 billion in bottles and glass containers each year, is headquartered in Tampa, FL, and has 14 manufacturing plants nationwide. It employs about 5,000 people, and its energy costs exceed $100 million annually. In 1994, its plants used 90 megawatt-hours of electricity. The plant in Aberdeen, NJ, called Cliffwood, uses 7,000 kilowatts each year. Anchor, in fact, accounts for more than half of the power load in the small township of 17,000 people. The 326 employees at the Cliffwood plant keep it running 24 hours a day, 350 days a year. Annually, the plant makes 750 million bottles for beer, soda, food, wine and liquor. It's a high-volume, low-margin business.
JCP&L threatened to sue if Aberdeen opened it own local power plant, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer in September 1995. The municipalization referendum failed and the plant was closed soon thereafter.
Jobs With Justice's report NAFTA's Impact on New Jersey claimed that the 300 jobs were lost at the Cliffwood glass factory because of NAFTA imports. According to the Federal Register, Vol 61, Issue 86, the Federal Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance agreed, concluding in March 1996 that the Cliffwood workers lost their jobs due to Mexican plant competition for the glass bottle market.
The plant has been vacant since 1996. The parking lot was used for recycling at one time and is now used for parking school buses. EHS Today reported in 2001 that Anchor Glass was fined $43,400 for violations to the Toxic Substances Control Act at its Cliffwood, Salem, and Elmira, NY facilities. The property is designated a brownfields site.
The property was sold in 2004 to Somerset Development, according to BNET. The article said,"Somerset Development plans to re-develop the site and is working with the township on an overall development plan. Somerset Development is a full service development company, with several industrial, office and residential properties located in the tri-state area."
The Asbury Park Press reported the following in February 2006, according to Glass On Web:
The blighted 52-acre property that once held the Anchor Glass Container Corp. on Cliffwood Avenue could be converted into a township center with hotels, town houses, three anchor stores, and hundreds of office spaces and apartments.
That was the conceptual plan rolled out by Somerset Development, the Lakewood-based company that owns the property.
The company’s ambitious conversion plans took a positive step Tuesday night, when the township council signed off on designating the land an area in need of redevelopment. The council during the workshop session also designated Somerset the project’s developers. After their hourlong presentation, Mayor David Sobel said the development must “give people from the entire area a reason to go. If they accomplish that, that will make (the venture) successful, and it will thrive for years to come.”
Somerset President Raphael Zucker said the company is eager to get started but will incorporate input from “major stakeholders and community members, at the right time.”
An even more detailed report on the redevelopment plan from the Bayshore Independent in March 2006 can be found at Press Archives. It reads, in part:
By passing a pair of resolutions at the Feb. 21 council meeting declaring the Anchor Glass site an area in need of redevelopment and designating Somerset Development as the developer, the council will begin a 90-day negotiation period with Somerset in order to set deadlines, approve designers and plot what responsibilities the township expects of the developers, according to Aberdeen Township Manager Stuart Brown. These resolutions are precursors to planning the mammoth redevelopment project, which is expected to take several years to complete.
Republican candidates to Aberdeen town council in 2007 claimed that the Democratic council was looking to convert the plant property to residential, according to the Bayshore Independent. In an interview by Aberdeener in April 2008, Aberdeen Mayor Sobel said the plant property had been purchased by Somerset Development but he hadn't seen much progress so far. The town council discussed redevelopment of the Anchor Glass property in closed session in June 2008, per council minutes. Someset was bragging about its role in the glass factory property redevelopment as late as August 2008, based on an article in Tri-Town News, but more recent articles show that the company may have turned its attention to the Westmont project in Woodbridge.
Is there more recent information on redevelopment of the site?