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Collingswood, NJ : Development News

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West Philly gets its own Nesting House, haven for sustainability-minded parents

Five years ago, Germantown couple Jen and Chris Kinka opened their first Nesting House at the corner of Carpenter Lane and Greene Street in Mt. Airy, completing what Chris Kinka calls a "holy trinity" for parents: a stop-in grocery store (Weavers Way Co-op), a caffeine peddler (the High Point Café) and a boutique-style consignment store featuring used kids’ clothes at great prices. The shop also offers top-of-the-line new products for environmentally and socially-conscious parents.

Their unique combination of quality second-hand goods and organic environmentally safe products -- including bedding, bottles and cups, toys and other family necessities -- is a way of tying the environmental and the economic together.

"Raising children can be very expensive, but it doesn’t have to be," insists Chris. The Kinkas have three kids, aged eight, six, and three, and their business has been expanding at almost the same pace as their family. They opened a second Nesting House in Collingswood, N.J., two years ago, and doubled the size of their original Mt. Airy location. Now, they’re poised to open a third shop, just off West Philly’s Clark Park.

They’ve had their eye on the area for a while.

"West Philly has been wildly supportive of us since we opened," explains Chris. On Saturdays, the busiest days in the Northwest store, "West Philly is coming up to Mt. Airy to shop at the Nesting House…It’s about time we gave them their own store."

Family-friendly Clark Park is an ideal hub of clientele. By networking with the local businesses and community organizations, the Kinkas heard about a vacant space opening up at 4501 Baltimore Avenue, right across the street from the West Philly location of Milk and Honey Market and not far from Mariposa co-op.

In a strip of five vacant storefronts, The Nesting House is leasing two to create a 1200-square-foot space. This time around, they’re able to put more thought and energy into the branding and look of the shop.

"Up until now, we have not been in a place economically or even mentally to consider more of the aesthetic nature of our spaces," says Chris. "This is the first space where we’re trying to determine what we want to be our branded look."

As of mid-July, the space is gutted and ready for construction; a beautiful exposed stone wall will add to the urban flair.

Things are moving quickly: Chris says they’re on track to open by mid-August, capturing that vital back-to-school clothing market.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Chris Kinka, The Nesting House 

Camden SMART stormwater initiative hosts slate of Earth Day events

When it comes to stormwater management strategies, there's "smart" and then there's Camden SMART. The city's progressive strategy -- the acronym stands for "Stormwater Management and Resource Training" -- is a public-private partnership created to grapple with the area's severe flooding issues.

This week, SMART is partnering with the City of Camden to sponsor a series of events in honor of Earth Day 2013. Throughout the week (which runs through April 27), activities will enlist the community to help clean up, rebuild and strategize plans for a more sustainable Camden. Monday, the kick-off took place at Camden City Hall, where Mayor Dana L. Redd led a tree planting in honor of late Camden School Board President Aletha R. Wright.

Then, on Wednesday, April 24 at 10 a.m., folks from SMART are partnering with the Camden Board of Education to plant a rain garden at Pyne Poynt School, located in the heart of North Camden.

Other activities include a clean-up of Woodrow Wilson High School and Dudley Grange Park (Friday, April 26, 9 a.m. to noon), an environmental movie screening and several neighborhood greening events.

Earth Week is just the latest in a long list of milestones and triumphs for Camden SMART. Since 2011, the program has garnered numerous partners and major stakeholders, including the Coopers Ferry Partnership, the City of Camden, Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, the New Jersey Tree Foundation and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
In 2012, SMART received the 2012 New Jersey Governor's Environmental Excellence Award, in part for constructing 19 rain gardens throughout the city, an effort that has lead to 1.5 million gallons of stormwater staying out of the sewer system each year.

"Unlike Philadelphia, Camden isn't mandated by the federal government to control our combined-sewer outflows," explains Meishka Mitchell, vice president of the Coopers Ferry Partnership. "Instead, Camden SMART is a community-led effort to combat the city's serious flooding issues."

To continue its fight against flooding, SMART has a busy agenda for 2013, including more rain gardens, rain barrel systems for residents and separating stormwater pipes from sewer pipes in certain neighborhoods.
"With the city being recently certified through the Sustainable Jersey program, Camden is becoming recognized as a sustainable city," says Mitchell. "That's important because [stormwater management and environmental stewardship] is a paramount issue facing our city."
Source:  Meishka Mitchell, Vice President, Coopers Ferry Partnership
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Camden residents launch grassroots effort to save Children's Garden

Earlier this month, the Camden City Garden Club (CCGC) received a letter from the State of New Jersey informing them that they planned to turn over 90 percent of the Camden Children’s Garden to Adventure Aquarium operator Herschend Family Entertainment. It's a move that would open up development opportunities for the Aquarium, but, in doing so, render the garden obsolete.

The garden comprises 4.5 acres right on the Camden waterfront. It has become a part of the community fabric, offering educational programming for local children (10,000 residents take advantage of the programming annually).

It’s also become a neighborhood necessity, producing over $2 million in fresh produce a year and helping feed 12 percent of Camden residents in a city considered one of the worst food deserts in the United States.

Once news of the garden’s fate reached the Camden community, a grassroots effort to save it took off. A Facebook group, "Save the Children’s Garden" was quickly created. It has already garnered 6,500 members and 1,500 petition signatures asking to spare the Garden.

Members of the Camden City Garden Club and other grassroots volunteers met Monday night to discuss action going forward, ultimately deciding to march to the City Council meeting this Tuesday at 4 p.m. to protest the decision.

Camden residents are also stepping up individually. Garden users Lindsey and Andrew Markelz are partnering with CCGC through their online business Charity Gift Market, a marketplace for charities that sell products to support their work. They’re asking their customers to support the effort to save the Garden by purchasing the children's book City Green. All proceeds will go into a fund dedicated to saving the Garden.

"Kids need affordable, accessible, safe and inviting places like the Camden Children's Garden," says Lindsey Markelz, CEO and co-founder of Charity Gift Market. "I realize that both sides probably have a case to be made legally, but here's the bottom line for me: The garden is good for Camden. I don't want to see it leave or be moved to a place that inhibits its activities and growth."

Source:  Lindsey Markelz, CEO and Co-Founder of Charity Gift Market
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Flying Fish Brewery moves into new digs, quadruples in size

On July 10, after 15 years, 11 months, and 1 week, New Jersey's own Flying Fish Brewery officially shut down production at its Cherry Hill digs in preparation for their move into a new high tech brewery in Somerdale, Camden County.  The relocation quadruples the brewery’s size and will allow them to meet demand, something they haven’t been able to do in Cherry Hill.  Driving this demand are a number of specialty brews the company has become known for over the years, none moreso than their popular “Exit Series” brews that are named for New Jersey Turnpike exits.   

After announcing their move late last year, the brewery has been busy building out their new space, with efficiency and sustainability in mind.  First off, according to he building is a great example of adaptive reuse.  "It was built in the late 1960s and was originally a pressing plant for Motown records," explains owner Gene Muller.  Plus, the building is outfitted with a solar panel farm on the roof that will supply a good portion of the structure's electric.  Rain gardens have been installed on the grounds and will capture 15% of the storm water off the roof and funnel it to the garden, allow it to slowly seep into the water table instead of running into the nearby Cooper River.  "Everything with the building has a focus on sustainability," Muller suggests.   

Other site features include a state-of-the-art 50 barrel German-manufactured brewhouse, 150 barrel fermenters, and upgrades in virtually every aspect of the brewery.  Comparatively, the Cherry Hill brewery only contained 25 barrels and 50 barrel fermenters.   

Once Flying Fish is up and running, owners have indicated plans to reinstate their popular brewery tours.  Muller isn't sure when the tours will start up again, but says "not before October" due to impending legislation regarding strict state laws limiting how companys like Flying Fish can sell alcohol.  For example, laws, some of which have been on the books since Prohibition, state that New Jersey microbrewers are not allowed to offer product samples outside their brewery, something Flying Fish and other believe has to be amended.

Recently, the company has been active in getting these laws repealed, and supported a bill that just passed in the New Jersey state legislature.  It now sits on Governor Christie’s desk, awaiting his approval.  The way Flying Fish sees it, passing this bill will help small brewers improve tourism opportunities and cut needless red tape that hinders their ability to expand in the future.  And perhaps more importantly, Muller indicates if the legislation passes, more jobs will be created too.   "If it passes, we would hire staff so that we could be open to the public for tours several days a week."  

Writer: Greg Meckstroth
Source: Gene Muller, Owner, Flying Fish Brewery

AIA PHILADELPHIA YOUNG ARCHITECTS FORUM: A different kind of affordable housing in North Camden

Editor's note: This is presented as part of a content partnership with the American Institute of Architects-Philadelphia's Young Architects Forum.

Name: Jeff Pastva
Age: 29
Firm / Title: Haley Donovan / Project Architect
Education: B. Arch '06 Syracuse University
Project: The Meadows at Pyne Point (441 Erie St., Camden, NJ), an $8 million affordable housing complex with sweeping views of the Delaware River and Ben Franklin Bridge.

Why is your project important to the neighborhood or the city at large?
This project is a part of the North Camden Neighborhood Plan, a 2009 NJHMFA Smart Growth award winner, and becomes the first delivered component. Since the neighborhood has seen severely depressed economic activity and crippling blight, the building serves as a source of hope for many who haven’t witnessed this level of investment in decades.

What was the biggest obstacle in completing this project?
From a total project perspective, funding is always an issue in the state of the economy, but this particular project saw the requirements change during the design. In addition, other external factors led the project to scale back in size, so the original concept that was designed completely changed.

Did you have any key partners or collaborators in making this project a reality?
As architects, we acted as the point during design and construction, but couldn't have pulled this off without our client Ingerman and BCM Affordable Housing, the support of their non-profit partner Respond Inc., the community activists at Save Our Waterfront, and the City of Camden.

How do you feel like your personal stamp, or that of your firm, is placed on this project?
From our firm's perspective, we believe in rebuilding the underserved urban areas in the Northeast. From southern Maryland through northern New Jersey, central PA to Atlantic City, we’ve been fortunate enough to execute many of our designs. This is one of our truly transformative projects though, because it brings a highly designed building with modern amenities to an area of the Greater Philadelphia region in true need of affordable housing.

What is the most innovative or distinctive part of this project?
The ability to provide an energy efficiency and quality design on an extreme budget is always a distinctive part, but you can’t overlook the social benefits. It provides much needed affordable housing for the neighborhood’s elderly and special needs housing for the chronically homeless.

As the first built project of the North Camden Neighborhood Plan, it also provides hope and a rallying point for future development. Due to the successful completion of this project, Phase II is currently being designed.
AIA PHILADELPHIA was founded in 1869 and is among the oldest and most distinguished of AIA Chapters, with a long history of service to members and the public. AIA Philadelphia organizes architects in the region for the purpose of advancing their influence in shaping the built environment, and their ability to effectively practice architecture in an ever-changing society and competitive marketplace. The YOUNG ARCHITECTS FORUM provides a place for young architects to network and communicate with one another, the College of Fellows, and Associate Members regarding mentorship, leadership, and fellowship.

Camden County looking to implement area's first county-wide bike sharing program

While bike sharing has caught on in American cities as large as New York City and as small as Hollywood, Fla., it has yet to catch on in any large way in Greater Philadelphia. While Montgomery County’s Pottstown and Camden County’s Collingswood do have bike sharing programs, they are two of a kind in the Delaware Valley. Despite the efforts of many, no such service exists in Philadelphia. However, various boroughs and cities in Camden County are looking to build off of Collingswood’s success and offer the first cross-county bike sharing service in the region in a project conveniently known as BikeShare.
The Camden County Division of Environmental Affairs is working with the national bicycle advocacy group Rails to Trails Conservancy to expand upon Collingswood’s popular bike share. BikeShare organizers currently have 250 bicycles, although many are in need of maintenance, says Jack Sworaski, the director of the Division of Environmental Affairs. Sworaski adds that a few of the bikes might be beyond salvage, in which case they’ll be used for parts. 

While Sworaski can’t give a definitive timeline, he says that “in the coming months, a few locations will be up and running" and anticipates more growth in the fall and next spring. He’s ambitious, as his overarching goal is to make BikeShare available for all Camden County residents. Sworaski says rates for joining BikeShare will depend on each individual municipality. For example, lower-income communities will have far cheaper rates to join than will affluent neighborhoods. This is to make the program accessible to all neighborhoods, regardless of wealth.

BikeShare will likely be used for recreation in some areas and commuting in other parts of the county. In more affluent  boroughs, Sworaski sees bicycles being used for fun by people who have access to private automobiles or the train. However, “for others, particularly in the City, where many residents do not own cars, a bike will provide the means to get to work, school, or other community events,” he says. The director makes sure to add that this will encourage an active lifestyle, benefit the environment, and save participants money, regardless of why they’re using BikeShare. 

The organizers of the bike sharing service are also working with Camden youth to repair their bikes and teach safety. Sworaski says the timing is ripe with summer around the corner. Also, BikeShare architects are working with the CYCLE program to teach children about bike safety and repair. This is a one-month program that will pair kids with trained bike instructors to make sure that they enjoy riding safely and know how to make repairs.  

Source: Jack Sworaski, Camden County Division of Environmental Affairs
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Photo courtesy of Evan Kalish

Camden community group believes bike/ped trails play a role in Cramer Hill's revival

The national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy held a trails forum at Rutgers Camden this past Friday in conjunction with Cooper's Ferry Partnership and the William Penn Foundation. The forum, a local byproduct of Rails-to-Trails' Urban Pathways Initiative (UPI), concentrated on the need for bicycle and pedestrian trails in Camden. The forum comes in the throes of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission's (DVRPC's) Regional Trails Program, which awarded money to Camden in mid-December.

While there's potential for a number of new trails in Camden, DVRPC awarded $150,000 towards the design phase of the Baldwin's Run Tributary Trail, says Chris Linn, manager in DVRPC's Office of Environmental Planning. Meishka Mitchell, the Vice President of Neighborhood Initiatives at Cooper's Ferry Partnership, hopes to "daylight" the Baldwin's Run tributary, which forms from the Delaware River and runs through the Cramer Hill neighborhood of Camden. By "daylighting," Mitchell means unearthing the tributary, which was filled with dirt in the 1960s, by creating a trail out of it.

The Baldwin's Run Tributary is now the site of Von Neida Park, which is Cramer Hill's most sizeable park. Usually a park connotes positive things for a neighborhood, but things aren't always as they seem in Cramer Hill. In fact, Cooper's Ferry complains that the park is prone to flooding, illegal activity, and a lack of upkeep. Flooding is the most dire woe, as nearby homeowners are left waterlogged after many storms. The flooding stems from the filling-in of the creek, which Mitchell's CDC hopes to rectify by removing the dirt and turning the body of water into a trail and drainage area.  
Mitchell is convinced of the plentiful benefits that trails can have for impoverished Cramer Hill. While it wasn't funded during the first phase of the Regional Trails Program, she is optimistic that a trail will be built along the Cooper River. She says a trail here could generate as much as $600 million for the city, expand its tax base, and help re-develop its brownfields, of which there are many. There is currently zero public access to the Cooper River in Cramer Hill. 

The vice president is happy with how the Urban Pathways forum went. "The event has helped to raise awareness on critical missing links, economic development, and neighborhood restoration," lauds Mitchell. The forum consisted of five sessions, which discussed how trails in Camden and its older brother across the Delaware River can connect, waterfront trail facilitation, how trails promote public health, teaching youth about trails, and funding trails.   

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Meishka Mitchell, Cooper's Ferry Partnership and Chris Linn, DVRPC

Rush & Hush: PATCO to experiment with a Quiet Car for South Jersey commuters

Have you ever had to bear with someone on the phone having a loud argument with their boyfriend or that group of teenagers that just won't shut up on your train? If so, you might be intrigued to hear that PATCO, which operates the high-speed rail line between Lindenwold, NJ and Philadelphia, wants to shush the arguments and boisterous conversations. In fact, PATCO will be testing a "quiet car" on all weekday trains starting in March.

John Rink, the new General Manager of PATCO, reports that his agency's "quiet car" program will be modeled after SEPTA's successful QuietRide policy on Regional Rail. On designated cars, this means cell phone use will be forbidden, any conversations should be fleeting and in a low voice, and passengers must listen to music using ear buds or headphones so as no one else will be able to hear. PATCO plans on delineating the rear cars of its weekday trains as "quiet cars," which means you can still yak to your heart's content if you're not in the last car.

One major difference between PATCO and SEPTA Regional Rail is that the South Jersey rail agency doesn't use conductors. This will pose challenges for enforcement in "quiet cars," but Rink is confident the policy can be a success. "Train Operators will make periodic announcements during each trip, Variable Message Signs [VMS] on platform will display messages, and from time-to-time our Transit Unit [police] will ride in the quiet car," avers Rink. However, he adds that self-enforcement among riders will be key. As with SEPTA, it will be important that riders don't quarrel over enforcement.

With about a month left before the three-month trial begins, Rink wants to get the word out about the "quiet car" as much as possible to PATCO riders. "We will Tweet, post on Facebook, discuss in our E-Newsletter, place on our website, [put] signage in the train cars, [and place] signage in our stations," says the general manager. In addition, Rink expects to utilize station supervisors to hand out notices the week before and the first week of the "quiet car" experiment.

Along with the "quiet car" program, PATCO will also unveil a Courtesy Counts campaign. This campaign will urge riders to treat fellow riders with respect by not taking up seats with personal belongings, not standing and blocking the train doors, keeping one's voice down when talking on the phone, and grooving to music with a reasonable volume. PATCO already has a video for Courtesy Counts on its website, which uses a humorous approach to draw attention to serious problems. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: John Rink, PATCO PHOTO: courtesy Delaware River Port Authority

South Jersey hopes to prove that an earthquake can't bring down an old opera house

Like many South Jersey cities, Woodbury used to offer a thriving Main Street, punctuated by the G.G. Green Block. Dreamed up in 1880, The G.G. Green Block was a block-long building that served as an opera house, theater, and shopping destination for the Gloucester County seat. Yet, in 2001 the store that called the Green Block home shuttered, leaving the building to collect cobwebs for the next decade. Many observers thought the final straw for the building was the earthquake this past year, which caused inspectors to deem the building unsafe. Defying the odds, city officials may have worked out a deal to save the building.

As recently as this past autumn, all hope seemed to be lost for preserving the G.G. Green Block. City council members and code enforcement officers felt as though the building needed to be demolished because it was structurally unsafe and an eyesore. The state Department of Environmental Protection agreed, which many thought was the death knell for the historic building. However, mayor Ron Riskie says that the cost of demolition turned out to be pricey (around $1 million).

Stung by the high price of demolition, Woodbury once again looked at preserving and re-developing the Green Block. In late December, city council announced it had found an eager re-development partner in RMP Development Group. Mayor Riskie says the building could be preserved as mixed-use development. “If the current plan is followed, we would see retail space on the first floor, and living units on the second and third floors,” says an encouraged mayor. Of the new housing, 20 percent would be affordable, while the remaining 80 percent would be priced at fair market rates.

Understandably, the Woodbury community is excited by the chance to save the fabled building. “The community is overwhelmingly pleased,” reports Riskie. “We saved the ‘centerpiece’ of the City.”

While city officials and residents are hopeful that the proposed preservation and re-development comes to fruition, it’s not a guarantee. The mayor admits that funding for the re-development still needs to be settled, although he anticipates that the city would purchase the building for a dollar, and then transfer it to RMP. Unfortunately, past proposals of re-developing the building have failed, including a popular proposal just a year ago to turn G.G. Green into a performing arts center.

Source: Mayor Ron Riskie, Woodbury
Writer: Andy Sharpe

First Barnes and Noble to serve three schools opens in Camden

Since 2004, the Camden Technology Center has been a community center of sorts, situated on the campus of Camden County College and flanked by Rutgers University and Rowan University's Camden campuses.

That anchor was solidified last Thursday with the opening of the new Barnes and Noble University District Bookstore and Starbucks Cafe, the first bookstore of its kind in the nation to serve three institutions of higher education.

"There are many people and organizations that love Camden and continue to invest their time and money into projects that will turn the city around," says Camden County College President Raymond Yannuzzi via email.

The project was an investment of $570,000, including $350,000 from Barnes and Noble. It came to be when the contract with Camden County College's prior bookstore service provider expired in February. The school requested proposals from national bookstore operators and Barnes and Noble won out, renovating the existing 13,500-square-foot space that now features a 51-seat Starbucks Cafe. The current contract with Barnes and Noble runs through 2015.

Barnes and Noble has a track record of this sort of thing in the Northeast. In 2006 it opened its first joint bookstore in downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pa., serving King's College and Wilkes University.

Yannuzzi says the first few days have been a success sales wise, "doing well above expectations with customer counts increasing daily." The bookstore fronts busy Cooper Street and is in a building that has a seven-floor public parking garage.

"The foot traffic not only includes students of the three institutions, but also local business people, community neighbors and government officials who now have a casual, comfortable place to meet and conduct business," says Yannuzzi.

Source: Raymond Yannuzzi, Camden County College
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Greater Philadelphia on pace to shatter record for multifamily building sales

While the stagnant economy is hurting sales in many industries, it is likely contributing to a bonanza in multifamily building sales in the Philadelphia area this year. In fact, hopeful landlords seem to be gobbling up buildings to rent them as apartments or sell them as condominiums. This is evident both in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

According to Christine Espenshade, senior vice president for capital markets at Jones Lang LaSalle Realty, 2011 multifamily sales have already set a record in the Delaware Valley, with a couple of months left in the year. Espenshade reports that sales have already hit $410 million. Yet, with two months remaining in the year, she predicts sales will touch $500 million. Compared to these figures, the $150 million in multifamily sales in 2010 seems downright paltry.

There are a number of explanations for this explosion in multifamily sales. Espenshade cites a durable growth of rent in the Philadelphia-area, a glut of new supply of apartments and condos, and an educated buyer’s market. Additionally, “With the availability of financing to purchase assets through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, investors can borrow sufficient capital for good, long term investments,” says the senior vice president. Finally, one of the more sobering explanations is that more Philadelphians are renting because they can no longer afford to own a house.

Philadelphia’s recent uptick in population bodes well for multifamily sales in the city. Espenshade confirms that a growing number of people are looking to rent apartments or purchase condos in the city because of its retail scene, colleges and universities, and varied employment market. However, this exponential growth isn’t limited to the city. Interestingly, Jones Lang LaSalle says there have more multifamily purchases in the suburbs. A possible reason for this is the sheer size of the Philadelphia Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes Camden and Wilmington.

The forecast for multifamily sales remains strong for 2012. Espenshade says rents will continue to rise next year, which should make multifamily investing more profitable. She also sees both private and institutional entities rushing to become involved in the multifamily market next year, which would be a repeat of this year. Most importantly, without any strong signs of economic improvement next year, more and more people likely won’t be able to afford to buy their own home.

Source: Christine Espenshade, Jones Lang LaSalle
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Art gallery with ambitious plans opens in heart of Camden this week

The opening of a new business in highly impoverished Camden is considered a notable accomplishment. The opening of a new art gallery in Camden is almost unheard of. That makes this week's opening of Gallery Eleven One, a "contemporary art studio and gallery," at 339 N. Front St. on Rutgers University’s Camden campus, such a noteworthy event. Gallery Eleven One is the product of artist William Butler, and his socially aware art, design, and clothing company, Thomas Lift, LLC.

Coming from Des Moines, Iowa, Butler deliberately chose to open his gallery in such a low-income city. After all, one of the main missions of his company is to help poor people of the inner city. To this end, Butler plans to donate at least 10 percent of Gallery Eleven One’s profits to socially conscious causes. Many of these beneficiaries are located within Camden, including Heart of Camden, which builds homes for financially destitute people, the Nehemiah Project, which focuses on removing blight through education and other means, as well as charter schools. Butler puts it succinctly when he says he wants his gallery to be "a small conduit causing a spark."

Gallery Eleven One is seen as a resource for Camden residents and Rutgers students alike. Butler is ardent about enabling everyone in Camden to be able to view his artwork. He has dreams of reaching out to charter schools to spread his art’s message to youth, and he also aspires to collaborate with other artists in Camden. Given the outcry about Camden’s shuttering of fire stations, it is a brush of irony that Butler opted to locate his gallery in a fully restored 1906 firehouse.

It is important to note that Butler is also looking to attract non-Camden residents and non-students to his gallery. Ads for Eleven One’s opening make prominent mention of how close the gallery is to Camden’s waterfront, making prominent mention of its proximity to Campbell’s Field and the River Line.

Butler gives some insight into what kind of artwork will be available at his gallery. He plans on featuring contemporary, abstract, and figurative pieces.

“There will be quite a variation in size, color, and feel,” says the artist. He gives a rough estimate of the range in size, which goes from 24x24 inches at the small end to 5x7 feet at the large end.

The buzz around Gallery Eleven One not withstanding, Butler and Thomas Lift, LLC plan to expand in the future. He’s looking at another abandoned firehouse in South Camden as a potential creative space for Camden residents. This would be a contrast with the Rutgers location, as South Camden is an exponentially rougher and lower-income neighborhood. Butler’s goal is to give "residents and visitors a number of access points" to art. However, this might be as far as a year away from opening. For now, Gallery Eleven One opens on Friday, with the opening reception spanning Friday and Saturday. 

Source: William Butler, Thomas Lift, LLC
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Voorhees Town Hall moves to the mall: Voorhees Town Center grows into 'Main Street' hub

With a centralized location just 20 miles outside Philadelphia and one of the highest median incomes in the state of New Jersey, Voorhees is a growing suburban community that has increased in population by 28,000 in the last 10 years. But before it can fulfill its potential, development professionals and city officials believe, it needs one thing that every great town has: a central hub. But like many residential areas and nearby cities, Voorhees has no Main Street, no central gathering place. So the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust created Voorhees Town Center, a mixed use shopping, dining and residential destination, bringing all the features of a vibrant downtown to Voorhees in one localized complex. City officials are on board, as Mayor Michael Mignogna announced this week that Voorhees' Town Hall will become the first city office to be located within the complex, adding legitimacy to the project as a true center point for this suburban community.

"Moving the Voorhees Town Hall to the Voorhees Town Center is another step in creating something that Voorhees has never had--a 'downtown,'" says Mignogna in a statement. "It will be a place for families to eat, drink, shop, conduct business and share community events. The Voorhees Town Center will become the 'heartbeat of our community.'"

Located at the former Echalon Mall, national, regional and local vendors sit alongside the Rizzieri Aveda School for Beauty & Wellness and Bayada Nurses. Upscale residences and office spaces overlook tree-lined pathways, benches and fountains, creating a Main Street feel that developers feel was sorely lacking in Voorhees. The addition of Voorhees Town Hall further diversifies this new community center.

"The addition of Voorhees Town Hall solidifies Voorhees Town Center as a true town center for the community," says PREIT President of Services Joseph Coradino. "This alternative use, coupled with the upscale residential component, differentiates Voorhees Town Center in a highly competitive marketplace."

Source: Joseph Coradino, PREIT
Writer: John Steele

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a cool new house being built in the neighborhood? Please send your development news tips here.

SEPTA receives $6.4M in federal grants to develop transit asset management system

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey announced last Tuesday that Pennsylvania would receive $47 million in federal transit and infrastructure grants as part of the Federal Transit Administration's State of Good Repair program. As SEPTA updated its hybrid bus fleet two years ago, the lion's share of the funding went to Pittsburgh's Allegheny County Port Authority for a clean diesel fleet of their own. But SEPTA didn't come away empty handed, receiving $8.1 million for two infrastructure improvements a long time coming.

The first grant will revamp SEPTA's Parkside Bus Loop, helping reconnect this West Philly neighborhood. But the second, more universal improvement will aid in future upgrades. Using $6.4 million, SEPTA will install an asset management system to aid in record-keeping as many of Philadelphia's transit assets come up for repairs.

"A lot of our infrastructure dates back to the early 1900's and were taken over from other private companies," says SEPTA CFO Richard Burnfield. "What the FTA was trying to focus on is knowing what you have out there in the field before you can make an assessment as to what your overall needs are, coming up with a plan for when things should be replaced."

The system will help SEPTA keep better records so when funding is available, the authority can make a more organized, more compelling case for further federal dollars as the fleet is upgraded.

"Right now, we do a very good job of managing our assets so while the records are not as computerized as we'd like them to be, we have so much knowledge within our engineering staff that I feel we make excellent decisions," says Burnfield. "But I think this will help us going forward so we can do a second check on things as our staff reaches retirement."

Source: Richard Burnfield, SEPTA
Writer: John Steele

Amtrak stops at 30th Street Station to announce high-speed rail plan

In science fiction novels and books about the future, a few technologies are boilerplate: flying cars, meals in pill form and the ability to teleport instantly from place to place. National commuter rail company Amtrak took another step toward teleportation on Tuesday with its announcement of a high-speed rail vision plan. In Tuesday's news conference from University City's 30th Street Station, with Governor Ed Rendell on hand, Amtrak officials laid out their goal to create a line with average speeds well over 130 mph, saving passengers between one and two hours on average.

"Amtrak is putting forward a bold vision of a realistic and attainable future that can revolutionize transportation, travel patterns and economic development in the Northeast for generations," says Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman.

The plan, entitled A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor, proposes a full build-out to be completed by 2040. Its construction, Amtrak says, would create more than 40,000 full-time jobs annually over a 25-year period, building new track, tunnels, bridges, stations, and other infrastructure. Predictably, the cost for such a project is high, $4.7 billion annually over 25 years. But Amtrak's feasibility studies peg the Northeast as a "mega-region" capable of drawing the type of rail traffic to make such an investment profitable. And with some premier legislative voices like New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg and Massachusetts' John Kerry already voicing their support, we may be teleporting out of 30th Street Station sooner than we think.

"Amtrak's High Speed Rail plan will create jobs, cut pollution and help us move towards a modern and reliable transportation system network in the Northeast," said Kerry in a recent statement. "As countries around the world continue to build out their transportation systems, we
cannot afford to fall further behind. This is an important down payment on the massive commitment necessary to bridge our infrastructure gap." 

Source: Joseph Boardman, Amtrak
Writer: John Steele

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