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New Jersey Suburbs of Philadelphia Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, Salem County in South Jersey
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Old 06-17-2010, 03:56 PM
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I moved to Collingswood, NJ three years ago with the belief (hype?) that it was an emerging "city-burb" that would reflect all the qualities of city life with a home town feel. In fact, Collingswood is very quaint, clean, safe and offers a variety of activities. It's most famous for its restaurant row that brings people from all over the area. People can get to and from Philly in about 15 minutes on the 24 hr. PATCO train that connects to SEPTA. Its almost an extension of CC Philly.
My issue is that it seems to have painted itself in a corner in terms of development. Collingswood attempts to attract people with the slogan "it's where you want to be" but it isn't doing too much to make itself attractive apart from restaurants...and more restaurants. The Lumberyard condo complex seems to be dead on the vine. No progress is being made and I expect a fire sale on those units in the next year if something doesn't happen to get them moving. The retail is another casualty of Collingswoods' archaic and odd laws. The don't bring in established retail in favor of local mom n pop shops. Problem is that rents on the storefronts are so high and the mom n pop shops can't support the market with their wares. Translation=vacant stores. Finally, the town remains alcohol free so there is little to do at night after you left a restaurant except spend money in Philly or Westmont. Haddon Twp has no issue with alcohol zoned in residential and it fits nicely on the avenue. I hope to stay but if things don't change, a move is in order.
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Old 06-17-2010, 05:12 PM
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I completely agree with you with regard to Collingswood remaining a dry town. I'm new to the area, so I don't understand the historical roots of this decision...but it's not a sustainably decision if the town wants to be a youngish, hip place to be. The byob's are really quaint, and it's nice to have a byob or two, but a nice local brewpub (and PJ Whelihans is not my version of a local brewpub) would be awesome. It would be great if there was an Indy movie theater in town too. Any idea what's going to happen to that Westmont theater?
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Old 06-17-2010, 06:27 PM
Location: South Jersey
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I never knew it was a dry town.. Not the best idea if you are trying to be in the forefront for restaurants, thats for sure.
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Old 06-17-2010, 07:17 PM
Location: North Brunswick
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There are a few dry towns around there. Haddonfield is too. Their golf course/country club Tavistock broke off and became its own municipality so they could have a bar!
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Old 06-18-2010, 06:36 AM
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I agree with you that there will eventually be a fire sale for the Lumberyard condos. They look nice but you may as well have the speedline barrel directly through your living room. Who'd want to deal with that constant noise?
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Old 06-18-2010, 07:53 AM
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There has been talk to overturn the dry town rule but I think it will be a longshot for it to actual be overturned.

I agree with everything else. Collingswood has places to eat and that is it. The retail stores all seem to be pointless. I don't think I have ever bought anything on Haddon Ave but food. They need some stores that actual encourage spending.

The Westmont Theater is still in midst of lawsuits so don't expect anything to happen anytime soon. There was talk it was going to become a nightclub of somesort, then an indoor shopping mall, then a local theater again. But like typical self interest groups they have wrapped up the whole thing in red tape that I really don't see ANYTHING happening anytime soon. Same goes for them redoing the Diaper location next to Treno's. Talk about 2 projects that were moving forward in 2003-2004 timeframe and really have hit major roadblocks to actually getting anything done.

LumberYards is a great concept but at a insane price. If you dropped those places by 30% in price maybe 40% you could see them as actual reasonable places but even the smallest places in there almost START at $300k. While 90% of the rest of the neighborhood is priced below that. So why buy a 1bd condo or a 3bd house 2 blocks away?

Hopefully both Collingswood and Westmont get their stuff together and start taking advantage of making Haddon Ave into what it could be.
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Old 06-18-2010, 09:40 AM
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You echoed a lot of what I have been saying about Collingswood's "revival" for a while now. I was born and raised in Collingswood and my parents still live there and I know many people in the town. Collingswood has a severe identity crisis that needs to be resolved before they can move forward. What the town is, who the residents are, what the vision for the future is and what the town can actually be are all very different. I figured I would organize some of my comments in a list:

1. The dry town thing. The history on this is that the town was originally settled by two Quaker families, the Collings and Knight families. Obviously with the Quaker roots the town has historically always been dry. When the last of the members of the Knight family died they left a gift to the town, "Knight's Park". The park is held in trust and managed by a board of trustees that are responsible to the Knight family. The deal is that the town get's unlimited use of the park as long as the town remains dry. Even allowing BYOB restraunts was a fight, that the trustees ultimately conceeded as being acceptable. The main hold on the town isn't that the park is a nice place, it's that it is the main parking area for the high school and also contains a lot of the sports fields. There is simply no space to replace the area's that would be lost if they lost use of the park.

The Lumberyard - This area was an eyesore in the town for a long time and the development certainly improved the look of Haddon Ave. However, the prices for the units are simply too high to justify buying them. They are essentially nice, but small condos located directly next to the speedline tracks. As other's stated, why spend $300k+ on a 1br condo when that same money buys you an entire house in another part of town. I think the current trick they are using is a tax abatement similar to what Philly did to get people to buy homes there. Bottom line is that the prices need to be allowed to fall into the correct range so the units get sold. Problem is that the developer will get burned big time, but they need to do something.

Haddon Ave. - When I was growing up the "Avenue" was a collection of random hair dressers and mom and pop stores, mainly of the thrift variety. They went out of business routinely. The most succesful places I can think of are the National Food Market and Lo's Chinese Food as they have both been in business and stable for a long time. Bringing in the restraunts even as BYOB's made sense, the problem is that there is nothing else to do after you eat. The Collingswood Business Association is an old boy's club and they have routinely blocked traditional retail from entering the town. The other huge issue is parking. Although plenty is available along the speedline tracks behind the Avenue, you basically end up walking through alleyways to get to the nicer areas. At the end of the day the town probably would have been better served turning the Lumberyard into a parking garage with ground level retail and skipped on the whole condo thing. If they can't get legitimate retail established the Avenue will always be a failure. People come to eat and leave and more and more they are finding fewer reasons to even come and eat as restraunts, even good ones, are ultimately a fad and if nothing else exists to help anchor them they will fail.

Schools - This is a major issue for Collingswoods long term viability as a nice or good town. The elementary schools are good, but the high school leaves quite a bit to be desired. The main reason for this is that Collingswood is stuck in sending/receiving agreements with Oaklyn and Woodlynne. While I don't think anyone complains about Oaklyn, Woodlynne has declined from a lower working class suburb into a mini-Camden. The population of students from Woodlynne has boomed as relatives take in high school aged relatives so they don't have to go to Camden High. This is turn has placed a tremendous burden on Collingswood and is dragging down the quality of the high school. No matter how you slice it quality schools is what stabilizes property values and attracts residents. The town needs to solve the "Woodlynne Issue" once and for all and get the high school back on track.

Image - Collingswood doesn't know what it wants to be. The population is split between people who have lived there for a long time and remember it as a rather quiet middle class suburb. The yuppie element envisions it as an extension of Center City. The town government seems to think that Collingswood = Haddonfield Jr. The problem is that none of these visions are really possible until they do some major work. The older population isn't happy with any major changes and while they tolerated a lot of change during the boom, current property values don't support the sacrifice and taxes are only going up to pay for the bonds and debt the town accumulated during it's rebuilding. The yuppies are disappointed because at the end of the day, there just isn't anything to do in Collingswood. It's not Center City, not even close. The town needs more night life, more retail and yes, a couple nice bars before it can achieve that image. The government folks are crazy to think Collingswood can be a Haddonfield. The town simply doesn't have the pocket book for that and while the external image is very good, the reality is very different. Collingswood is still essentially a middle class working town. However, Collingswood could be more like a Haddon Twp. with an actual downtown and enjoy the higher property values if they could fix the schools.
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Old 06-18-2010, 10:10 AM
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Good Post NJGOAT.

Now how does Collingswood fix the Woodlynne issue and dry town issues?
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Old 06-18-2010, 10:57 AM
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I don't know how they can fix either to be honest.

The dry town thing has been debated endlessly for sometime. The trustee's of Knight's Park are bound by the deed giving them control of the park when Edward Knight died in the late 1800's. It really comes down to what would happen to the park that is an integral fixture for the town, not just for recreation, but also for the high school. At one point the high school was trying to buy up lots that were on blocks that shared space with the high school, but no one sold. The high school is essentially hemmed in with no way to replace the parking and sports fields they would lose if they lost the park. Allowing alcohol to be sold has been compared to cutting off you nose to spite your face. While many in the town would support allowing alcohol sales, no one wants to lose the park.

The Woodlynne issue is a deep one that goes beyond just the schools. In fact Collingswood essentially provides police and fire coverage for Woodlynne. Woodlynne has essentially devolved into a rather poor quasi-ghetto. They have almost no regular police and fire presence. Collingswood routinely responded to calls in Woodlynne for both as Woodlynne couldn't do it. This eventually progressed to the point where Collingswood took over the Woodlynne police department. However, the towns have now had a falling out over the approaches to controlling Woodlynne's spiraling crime issues and Collingswood is pulling out of the agreement. The problem remains that the towns share a border and problems in Woodlynne quickly become problems in Collingswood.

On the issue of schools, it is unfortunately an issue of race as much as anything else. Collingswood and Oaklyn are primarily (90%+) caucasian and solidly middle class. Woodlynne is over 50% minority with almost 30% of the population living below poverty standards. What this means is that ~90% of the minority kids and those below the poverty line attending Collingswood High School are from Woodlynne. The problem is exacerbated by people in Woodlynne taking in relatives from Camden and other areas so that they can attend Collingswood High School. The sending/receiving agreement has been in place for a long time and the details are managed by the state. The issue comes down to where would Woodlynne students go if the agreement was ended? The only possible solution is Camden High Schools as no other district would accept Woodlynne at this point, but that is a non-starter for Woodlynne. It really comes down to the image that white, more affluent Collingswood wants to divest itself of the poorer minority students in it's high school. No one takes into account the massive resource drain and discipline issues that those students represent and it drags down Collingswood High School tremendously as it used to be one of the better schools in the area.
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Old 06-18-2010, 11:05 AM
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So what would actually happen if Collingswood allowed liquor?
The park would not longer be given to the town control. But that doesn't tell me much.
Would the develop it? Lock it off to public? That would need to be clear before you could move forward.
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