Collingswood Selects Redevelopment Group for Atlantic Avenue ‘Water Tower’ Project, Visioning Sessions to Follow


The borough will sign a memorandum of agreement with a group comprising Tantum Real Estate, Pennrose, RHO Residential Property Management, and Thriven Design. 

By Matt Skoufalos | May 1, 2024

Collingswood Atlantic Avenue redevelopment study area. Credit: Tantum-Pennrose.

After a month-and-a-half of deliberation, Collingswood borough officials have landed on a partner with which they believe they can redevelop the 1.8-acre, borough-owned parcel on Atlantic Avenue.

Nestled in the borough downtown behind Haddon Avenue, and bordered by Irvin and Collings Avenues, the property comprises the site of the former borough police station, and soon-to-be-replaced public works building.

Its redevelopment has been contemplated since 2003, when the “Heart of Collingswood” long-term planning study first laid out a vision for reviving the area in question. In early 2024, the borough issued requests for qualifications (RFQs) from area development groups to solicit ideas for the space.

Six companies responded, and from among them, borough officials intend to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a group led by Tantum Real Estate and Pennrose developers at the May borough government meeting.

That agreement would clear the way for the redevelopment process to begin in earnest. Although specific plans are a far-off consideration, Collingswood is maintaining a public information page on the project.

Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley said commissioners liked the proposal from the Tantum-Pennrose group most overall for the composition of its partners and the concepts presented.

“The developer’s got a good track record,” Maley said. “We like her product. Pennrose is good-quality builders and operators.”

The idea that seemed to make the most sense in principal Debra Tantleff’s presentation was her inclusion of a five-story, 60-unit apartment building dedicated exclusively to affordable senior housing, Maley said.

Tantum-Pennrose concept plan for Collingswood Atlantic Avenue parcel. Credit: Tantum-Pennrose.

“She learned Collingswood,” the mayor said. “For our community, more affordable senior housing, allowing that segment of the population to age in place, made a lot of sense. Why didn’t we think of that?”

A second, six-story building in the Tantum-Pennrose plan would add 95 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments distributed across four residential stories, and stacked on a two-story parking garage. Although the Tantum-Pennrose presentation describes that building as a “100-percent market-rate, Class A residential community,” Maley said it likely would include a mix of market-rate and affordable units.

“I don’t expect that that [senior building] will function as the affordable component for the market-rate [units],” he said.

The Tantum-Pennrose proposal also would create “an enhanced public open space plaza area” around the Collingswood water towers, which the developer said “can and should be utilized as both a landmark and a benchmark in determining the appropriate scale for the project.”

To achieve the stacked parking design, which only half of the submitting agencies considered in their concepts, Tantum-Pennrose would incorporate the parking lot behind the Thriven Design office at the historic Old Zane School building “to create sufficient footprint for a large parking garage and achieve a reasonable amount of residential density.”

Thriven also is the named architectural partner in the Tantum-Pennrose proposal.

Borough officials stressed that the concept presented in the RFQ is merely that. They have scheduled two public visioning sessions for soliciting community input into the design: 7 p.m. May 29 at the borough Senior Community Center, and 10 a.m. June 8 at the borough Public Safety Building.

“It is our intention that as the public is engaged in the redevelopment process, we will demonstrate that the heart of the community will not be impacted through the repositioning of the municipal lot,” the Tantum-Pennrose proposal reads.

“We are excited to present this opportunity that will deliver a new, active resident who will seek to integrate and participate in the larger community, a new tax ratable for the Borough, and a new built environment that will make Collingswood proud.”

Maley said the opportunity to pore over developer concepts in community with residents is an important next step to the redevelopment process.

“This is the beginning,” Maley said. “We’re ending one phase of this process, but now we begin, ‘What do we want here?’ ‘How do we want to see this?’

“We wanted a developer’s concept,” he said. “The reason we do that is to get free comments from the development community, and there’s a couple different ideas in here.

“We scheduled these couple sessions to start out with to say, ‘Here’s a draft, now let’s all talk about it.’”

Collingswood will host community visioning sessions around the Atlantic Avenue/Water Tower redevelopment project. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Some of the vendors whose bids didn’t make the final cut in the process nonetheless offered ideas that intrigued the commissioners.

Peron Development of Easton, Pennsylvania took the biggest conceptual swings with its pitches, both of which were “designed using a concept of cylindrical motifs as a tribute to the two existing water towers located at the center of the site.”

The most radical notion Peron proposed would demolish the properties controlled by The Retrospect and Flair Dance Company to create an open entranceway to the site from Haddon Avenue.

The walkway would wind back to a pair of buildings, a four-story, 291-space parking garage, and an outdoor amphitheater situated at the base of the water towers.

Its residential concepts varied in density, with one large building at the back of the walkway built to either six or eight stories high, over one or three levels of parking, respectively, creating 115 to 125 apartments and 67 to 262 parking spaces.

A second building to the side of the existing Senior Community Center would create either a two- or five-story apartment building with 18 or 32 units, respectively.

Capodagli Property Company of Linden proposed “Meridia Collingswood,” a mix of 130 studio, one-, and two-bedroom luxury apartments across two five-story buildings, plus 277 structured garage and 63 surface parking spaces. Its design characteristics seemed most in keeping with the scale and exterior trims visible on the Collings at the Lumberyard building.

EQT Exeter of Radnor, Pennsylvania, pitched a handful of high-density concepts, the most ambitious of which included a 13-story multifamily apartment building and separate six-story parking garage; it was easily the largest-scale project proposed.

Kokes Properties of Brielle envisioned a 90-unit, six-story apartment building on the site, with a separate, 240-space, four-story parking garage.

Nexus Properties of Lawrenceville declined to offer any concept, noting only that “some sort of structured parking is likely to be required.”

“We believe it is premature to provide any good-faith development concept absent additional information from and collaboration with Borough representatives,” the company wrote.

Concept plans for Collingswood Water Tower redevelopment project. Peron Development created the top three renderings; below that are submissions from Capodagli (far left), EQT Exeter (center), and Kokes Properties. Credit: NJPEN.

“There’s a lot of great proposals, some of them similar, but a lot of great ideas that might find their way in,” Maley said. “There’s only so much space.

“We’re going to spend time over these next couple months going over design and costs,” he said. “There’s going to have to be due diligence.”

The mayor is confident, however, that a transit-oriented development over the 1.8-acre parcel can have a significant and positive impact on the borough, especially its business district, by adding more parking and more residents bringing foot traffic to local shops and restaurants.

“It’s time to be looking at what we can be doing right here,” he said.

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