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.
“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.