Infrastructure repairs, long-term redevelopment plans, and support for the downtown business district are a handful of agenda items in this municipal election year.
By Matt Skoufalos | March 7, 2019
2019: the Year Ahead is a series of conversations with local leaders about planning and priorities for the next 12 months. In this installment, we spoke with Haddon Township Mayor Randy Teague.
At the top of his priorities for 2019, Haddon Township will invest some $900,000 into road repairs, said Mayor Randy Teague.
One of the most visible changes will be the addition of a crosswalk over Nicholson Road at New Jersey Avenue in the West Collingswood Heights section.
The municipal government will also resurface Crystal Lake Pool, which has come to the end of its current lifespan, and make concrete repairs elsewhere onsite.
Sanitary sewers on Virginia Avenue also will be replaced this year, as will a number of fire hydrants throughout the township.
Finally, the historic Champion School will also enjoy some improvements to its facilities, having received a $50,000 grant for that purpose.
Bigger changes are in store in the next two years as Camden County begins its planned overhaul of the Haddon Avenue roadway. Ahead of that project, Haddon Township will survey its stormwater and sanitary lines to make preparations for repairs to the underlying infrastructure, as well as to sidewalks and driveway aprons.
“We want to do that work at the same time they’re tearing up Haddon Avenue,” Teague said. “We’re going to be working with PSEG as well.”
The township is also in the process of completing a DVRPC-funded study on the feasibility of incorporating pedestrian and bicycle improvements into the soon-to-be-revamped Haddon Avenue. The municipal government will also oversee the planting of 100 curbside trees town-wide, based upon the recommendations of its shade tree commission.
Teague also said the community would continue to add programming at Haddon Square, the community pop-up event space in the township-owned vacant lot next to Planet Fitness.
One of the longest-running is the weekly, seasonal Westmont Farmers Market, which was cancelled by the township Business Improvement District (BID), and then renewed with additional sponsorships from First Colonial Community Bank.
In addition to the beer gardens held there throughout the year, the BID will also produce more themed events and family-focused programming, Teague said.
Those will include an August celebration of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, Sunday Makers Markets, movie and game nights, and community events like the Severino Pasta spaghetti dinner.
“Haddon Square has been a great addition,” the mayor said. “It’s really bringing people into our downtown.
“The idea in this day and age of Internet and everybody shopping online is to get people out of their homes,” he said. “That’s the benefit of the square and the live entertainment. We’re getting people out of their homes and up to Haddon Avenue.”
A handful of moves are also anticipated in the Haddon Township downtown business district this year.
In addition to the changeover of the Napa Auto Supply store into the planned, multi-tenant beer garden, Reunion Hall, the Haddon Towne Center across the street will welcome a number of new tenants—a florist, a fresh food eatery, and a co-working space—to complement the fully leased residential project above.
The mayor also spoke about the overhaul of the Westmont Plaza, which has seen a reversal of its fortunes after the opening of the small-format Target and A.C. Moore there.
Teague hopes to parlay that same momentum into redeveloping the former Newton Diner site on the White Horse Pike, which has sat vacant for years since burning down. The property is currently for sale, he said, as is the former Wells Fargo office building on Cuthbert Boulevard. Both would make prime redevelopment targets.
So too would the former Crystal Lake Thriftway site, which has lain dormant since the closure of the supermarket there. Teague alluded to prospective redevelopment plans there, but said the ownership group hasn’t committed to a design.
“I know that’s on their radar, and they want to upgrade that shopping center,” he said. “It’s just a matter of working with them to make it a viable location for different businesses that maybe we don’t have in other parts of town.”
Those businesses could include specialty grocery stores, produce markets, or restaurants, the mayor said.
Teague also said the township is considering establishing a local ordinance that would curb long-term retail vacancies in town.
He anticipates rolling out some language, potentially this month.
“We would like the owner of the property to be actively looking to put somebody into the vacancy,” Teague said.
“We’d like to fill all the vacancies, or at least require the landlord to be looking.”
The mayor also spoke about the reduction in abandoned residential properties within the township, which he said has fallen by a factor of two-thirds, to fewer than 20, as the local real estate market continues to heat up.
“There’s a desire to move into Haddon Township, so we’re seeing a lot of these abandoned, vacant, foreclosed homes being bought up and renovated,” Teague said.
Finally, 2019 is an election year for the township commissioners. Incumbents Teague, Jim Mulroy, and Ryan Linhart expect to run on a combined ticket, and Teague believes the strength of their record—and a planned flat municipal tax—will be enough to defend their seats.
“I think Haddon Township is a great community,” Teague said. “We have a great downtown, we have a great school system, and it’s a great place to live. It has all the amenities that you would want.”
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