Collingswood Public Works Facility Groundbreaking First Domino in Downtown Redevelopment


Borough officials say building the new DPW headquarters at Harrison and Sloan Avenues will unlock the next phase of downtown redevelopment in the center of town.

By Matt Skoufalos | March 22, 2024

Groundbreaking at the new Collingswood DPW site. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

On Wednesday, Collingswood officials kicked off construction of the new borough Public Works building with a ceremonial groundbreaking at the intersection of Harrison and Sloan Avenues.

On paper, build-out of the $11-million facility is set on a 365-day timeline, “and then a pretty quick changeover,” said Collingswood Director of Public Utilities Steve DiOrio.

The significance of the project isn’t just in providing a new, updated site from which the public works crew will serve the community, or even in retiring the antiquated garage that has housed its operations to date.

Wednesday’s groundbreaking also marked a milestone in the protracted redevelopment of downtown Collingswood, a process begun with the construction of the borough Public Safety building, demolition of its former police department, and sell-off of the former historic fire house.

Between those two facilities lies the Collingswood Public Works garage, and its retirement — and eventual demolition — is anticipated to clear the way for a broader-scale redevelopment of the Atlantic Avenue corridor.

The 1.8-acre downtown site is owned fully by the borough government, which described it as “an area in need of rehabilitation” and “an area in need of redevelopment” in its request for qualifications (RFQ) from prospective redevelopers of the site.

Collingswood is a designated Transit Village by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and as such, the project must follow smart growth principles, with redevelopment around the transit facility supporting “compact, mixed-use neighborhoods with a strong residential component.”

On March 15, the borough unsealed bids from a handful of prospective redevelopers, from which it will narrow the field to a few firms that may be invited to submit more detailed proposals for the site.

(NJ Pen has filed an Open Public Records Act request to access the names of those redevelopers and the content of their RFQs, which borough officials have not yet made available.)

Collingswood DPW Building Elevations

But five days later, and a mile-and-a-half away from the center of town, the Atlantic Avenue parcel was foremost on the minds of Collingswood commissioners, who spoke about its connection to the construction of the new public works facility.

“It’s not often when the development happening in that location is more important for the development it’s allowing us to get rid of,” Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley said. “That’s what this one is all about.

“It’s a domino,” he said; “it just takes a long time.”

Not to be lost in the contemplation of new construction in the heart of downtown Collingswood are the details of the facility on the edges of the community that will facilitate that redevelopment.

In addition to a two-story, 12,248-square-feet office building and a nearly 10,000 square-feet, five-bay garage, DPW plans include a 3,248-square-feet, vinyl composite, pre-fabricated structure that will provide housing for outdoor equipment like stump grinders, a Bobcat utility vehicle with specialized attachments, snowblowers, and more.

“Programmatically, it’s got everything they need — bathrooms, showers, meeting spaces, storage,” said architect Gino Schiavo of Thriven Design, who drafted plans for the facility.

Collingswood Public Works crew outside their Atlantic Avenue facility. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“The tent will add cover for vehicles, with mechanical and storage garages,” Schiavo said.

“It meets energy codes, and the structure is beefed up for solar in a potential second phase.”

“The space makes sense,” said Collingswood Borough Administrator Cassandra Duffey.

“It’s a much-needed upgrade,” Duffey said.

“It sets off a change that allows us to use other spaces in the borough more efficiently.”

“We hope this will be a place to allow our great public works crew to continue to provide services to town,” said Commissioner Rob Lewandowski. “We’re happy with the coordination of everyone who worked on this project and with the town to provide services.”

On behalf of the crews who will be operating out of the new facility, DiOrio summed up their feelings simply as anticipating a new, dedicated space from which to operate.

“We appreciate the respect, but we’re happy to be out of the middle of town,” he said. “It’s not necessary that we are taking up prime real estate in Collingswood. That area of town is going to look much nicer.”

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