Collingswood Sends Woodlawn Ave. Pocket Park Project out to Bid


The borough hopes to begin construction on the corner of Haddon and Woodlawn Avenues this summer. It’s a placemaking initiative that officials say emerged from years of adaptive reuse.

By Matt Skoufalos | March 5, 2024

Collingswood pocket park site at Woodlawn and Haddon Avenues. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

One of the most visible corners in Collingswood is headed for a major makeover, as the borough begins community placemaking efforts to establish a downtown pocket park on Haddon Avenue.

The corner of Haddon and Woodlawn Avenues has become a sort of all-purpose space for Collingswood since the departure of Warner Landscape and Patio from the rear edge of the property at 641 Haddon Avenue.

In 2014, it was slated to be converted into a mixed-use building with a first-floor commercial space and residential units above.

Two years after that, the property was headed back on the market, with the borough government considering demolition of the low-slung garage there as an enticement to redevelopers.

In 2017, new concepts were hatched that would have revisited the mixed-used residential and commercial design, but those again fell through.

In 2020, Ocean City architect Steve Fenwick proposed converting the building into a wood-fired pizzeria operated by his son-in-law, Greg Camia, but those plans never materialized.

Finally, after about a decade of seeking alternative uses for the space, local mainstay Sara’s Produce is planning to take over the former Warner building, and the borough government is leaning into establishing the corner as a permanent pocket park.

At their March meeting, Collingswood commissioners resolved to send the project, designed by architect Angelo Alberto of the Springfield, Pennsylvania-based Spiezle Architectural Group, out for a construction bid.

Overhead view of the Collingswood Pocket Park rendering. Credit: Spiezle Architectural Group.

“We’ve gone through iterations of development at this property; nothing seems to really work,’ Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley said. “And while we’ve been going through that process, we’ve been using this space, so we’ve all gotten used to it for pop-up this, pop-up that.

“Right now, the use with Sara’s in the building, and the pocket park up front, it’s probably the most perfect we do,” Maley said.

The mayor anticipates bids for the work could cost around $200,000 as a ballpark estimate; if everything goes as anticipated, the project could get underway as early as the summer of 2024, he said.

Borough Administrator Cassandra Duffey described the plans as formally incorporating “this sort of accidental space” that’s hosted everything from community vigils to holiday markets to television shoots.

“We were able to watch it develop naturally, and then take all these uses that we’ve seen the community find, and then create a park,” Duffey said. “I think it was important to capture the space the way the community was using it.”

Architectural renderings of the lot show public amenities like bike racks, benches, a rain garden, an outdoor dining area, and a small performance stage.

Woodlawn Avenue rear view of Collingswood pocket park rendering. Credit: Spiezle Architectural Group.

String lights suspended overhead will allow the space to be used in evenings as well as daylight hours, with electricity, water access, and security cameras incorporated into the build-out.

The design even shows inklings of a mural along the Grooveground Coffeebar building next door, which Maley said presages discussions that are already underway about how to add more outdoor art in the borough.

Letters spelling out the name of the town along a fence at the Woodlawn Avenue border will be replaced by three-dimensional reproductions of the same on a rounded edge that will both create another boundary and a photo-ready social gathering space.

Collingswood Green Team spokesperson Sandi Kelly, who contributed to the visioning of the project, said the effect will create a “Greetings from Collingswood” virtual postcard space for photographs.

“The vision is really for everyday social gathering,” Kelly said; “a flexible space for events that are small, medium, and large. We really want to get input from people about programming, but we also don’t want to over-program it.”

While the work is being bid, Kelly said the borough is also soliciting final suggestions from the community, and will likely tweak the design elements again before the space is completed.

“I am so excited about this project,” she said. “It’s small, but it’s significant, and it’s something that I think the residents of Collingswood will be excited about.”

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