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SMALL-TOWN RETAIL SUCCESS STORIES In Collingswood, close proximity to big cities is big key

Collingswood was named the Most Transformed Town in America in 2011.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

With its old-fashioned, small-town charm and pedestrian-friendly urban flavor, Collingswood is oddly reminiscent of early 20th century America.

Once upon a time, however, the largely blue-collar town suffered from its proximity to Camden and the growing trend of residents moving farther away from where they worked.

Now, that’s all changed — and Collingswood is ready to capitalize on making it easier to live with a little less.

For instance, Collingswood is just finishing the last phase of its $45 million “LumberYard” multifamily project, a result of public and private financing from the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s 2003 Smart Growth initiative aimed at encouraging residential development along commuter corridors.

Mayor Jim Maley — who has been mayor for 17 years and in elected office for 25 — said the transformation of the original town lumberyard into 70 condominiums and 100 apartments is the most housing that’s been built in the town over the last 60 years.

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“We’ve been built out,” Maley said.

“But one of the things that South Jersey suffers from is a lack of rail transit — we’re lucky enough to be one of the seven stops on the (PATCO) Speedline.

“People are living here because they’re able to survive without a car or just one car.”

Jef Buehler agrees Collingswood’s high-speed, elevated rail access adjacent to the wealthier community of Haddonfield has spurred its economic growth.

“Transit-oriented development has become, over the last 15 years, very much a public-policy focus, tactic and strategy to support downtown and community revitalization,” Buehler said.

Collingswood’s close proximity to Philadelphia hasn’t hurt it, either.

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Meg Fry

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