2020 Vision is a series of conversations with local elected officials about the agendas for their communities in the upcoming year. In this installment, we speak with Haddon Township Mayor Randy Teague.
By Matt Skoufalos | February 27, 2020
In the next year or two, the long-awaited reconstruction of Haddon Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares in three neighboring communities, is finally expected to get underway.
But until Camden County solidifies its plans for the roadway, which will be addressed in sections, the local governments are waiting to see which sections of the street are going to be replaced.
“Our initial plans of replacing all the infrastructure on Haddon Avenue, given that it’s 100 years old, is probably not going to happen at this time,” said Haddon Township Mayor Randy Teague.
“It’s not going to be a complete reconstruction; it’s going to be portions of the avenue that the county deems to be in disrepair.”
To prepare for the project roll-out, the Haddon Township Department of Public Works is scoping its sewer lines to identify those sections most in need of fixing up. This information will form the basis of its conversations with the county government, including about best to pay for those repairs.
“They have their engineers looking at Haddon Avenue, and we have ours looking at it as well,” Teague said. “At this point, we put a significant value on the repair and replacement of the infrastructure given its age. If they’re going to put money into asphalt, I’d rather see that money go into infrastructure.”
Along with the makeover, Haddon Township will look to make pedestrian-friendly improvements to the Haddon Avenue streetscape as it participates in a joint bike and pedestrian planning study with nearby Collingswood.
Funded by a federal grant, the project is expected to generate recommendations for making both communities more accessible to a variety of transportation modalities, a principal aim of the Haddon Township 2020 municipal Master Plan update.
Helping Haddon Township residents and visitors connect more easily with various segments of the community includes bringing more foot traffic to the Haddon Avenue business corridor, which is as vibrant as it’s been in years.
The additional interest is inspiring business owners and tenants to double down on renovations to their spaces, Teague said.
“As time goes by we’re getting more and more interest in businesses on Haddon Avenue,” he said. “I think business owners are comfortable investing in their businesses because of what’s happening on Haddon Avenue.
“Talking to realtors, they say Haddon Township is really, really hot,” the mayor said. “The events we do at the downtown bring people out. The proximity to mass transit is a big selling point as well.”
Recent additions in the main business corridor include the Greek-themed Koupa Espresso Bar and Peter James BYOB; plans also are in the works for Reunion Hall, an indoor-outdoor beer garden from RunningCo owner and township native Dave Welsh, and Hearthside owner Dominic Piperno is working on a new concept for the avenue as well.
Future expansion could come at the former site of the Newton Diner, which has been vacant for about a decade, and Teague said commissioners could designate the property as an area in need of redevelopment.
That same approach may also come into play as the local government works to restore other dormant properties (unused for five years or more) to commercial viability.
“We’re at the very early stages, but pursuant to our redevelopment ordinances, we’re looking at other areas in town that might also fit that criteria,” Teague said.
While the local governing body considers those policies, it’s also making moves to address the questions around the availability of parking in its downtown business district. Haddon Township commissioners have tasked the planning board to examine local parking regulations based on the recommendations of the 2020 Master Plan update, and to offer amendments as needed.
“A couple years ago, the board had made a recommendation to eliminate parking requirements for businesses of 1,000 square-feet or less,” Teague said. “That never got to the governing body to approve. Now that we have a master plan that is more consistent with not-so-stringent parking, we’re going to take a look at that.
Making accommodations for more non-vehicle traffic will also relax the demand for additional parking, Teague said, citing an uptick among residents walking, biking, and taking public transportation into the Haddon Avenue business district. He added that rideshare services and mass transit, neither of which require parking spaces, are increasingly preferable options for patrons of its bars and restaurants.
“There’s a lot of other sources of transportation to get to our Avenue, as opposed to just driving,” the mayor said.
In addition to the owners of private lots forming agreements to share and lease them among local businesses, Teague said he’s also planning to meet with the Delaware River Port Authority to discuss ways to share access to the PATCO Speedline lots outside of peak rider hours.
“Their ridership is busting at the seams, and we’re seeing a lot of spillover onto our streets from people utilizing PATCO,” Teague said. “They have a lot of asphalt relatively close to our downtown. I’m hoping that by meeting with them, our businesses could utilize their parking during the evening. It seems like something that our residents and visitors could utilize.”
The township doesn’t have any interest in devoting land and cash to the construction of a municipal parking deck, the mayor said. He viewed any parking concerns as “a good problem to have” for the business district.
“We have a lot of businesses who want to be in our downtown; a lot of people who want to go to our downtown,” Teague said. “I think the businesses looking to be in our downtown recognize that parking may be an issue, and they like the fact that we’re doing a lot of different things with our downtown to bring people out that don’t rely on cars.”
Among those events, residents can look forward to the annual Summer Solstice and Haddon Township Music Festivals in June and October, respectively, as well as a potential August event, given the success of the Woodstock anniversary concert last summer.
Due to the cancellation of the 2019 Music Festival, the township Business Improvement District (BID) funded some enhancements to the Haddon Square pop-up space, including a vinyl vehicle wrap for the bathroom trailer.
Future planned improvements to the space will include a reconfigured entrance and additional greenery.
“We’re trying to do a little bit each year,” Teague said. “We want to make sure we don’t put things that interfere with the events and create a liability, but when we’re not having events, put some things in that give it a more green look,” he said.
Local leaders also applied for a Camden County open space grant to improve the public green space adjacent to the township municipal building.
Finally, Teague said that commissioners and community organizers will put their heads together this year to help revive the Westmont Farmers Market, which suffered a down year in 2019 amid a spate of inclement weather and a location shift. Many possibilities are on the table, including moving the date and location, and working to incentivize attendance.
“We’re not giving up,” the mayor said.
“We had a lot of people disappointed with not having it last year, and then people didn’t come to the market,” he said.
“We have some ideas, and hopefully we can get more participation and attendance.
“People are willing to go out for fresh farm products; it’s just a matter of getting them out,” he said.
“The Internet has made things too easy for people, but that’s a big part of why we do the events in town. People’s shopping habits have changed, but live events, you can’t duplicate that on a computer.”
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