A group of developers believe their plan to rehab a long-empty Lenola property could be the catalyst for further development of the West Moorestown neighborhood, but some residents aren’t sold on the idea.
Representatives from Land Resource Solutions (LRS), including CEO Jeff Dey and partner Steve Jaffe, presented their plans to the public Wednesday night to build an “upscale mixed-use” property—combining a small retail store with about 20 high-end rental units in a two-story building—on the site of the former Lenola Auto Mall at the corner of Cottage and Camden avenues.
“We want to try and get this to be a catalyst for some additional redevelopment here in West Moorestown,” Dey said during a sparsely attended meeting at the Lenola Fire Hall. “We’re looking for a mechanism for change.”
Dey and Jaffe, who both live in Moorestown, believe demand—both on the commercial and residential end—is there for the type of project they’re proposing. The rentals would be a mix of 12 two-bedroom townhouses and approximately eight or nine one-bedroom/studio units, and would be of a higher quality than surrounding rentals, they said, with rent in the range of $1,350 to $2,000.
“These are very different than what we see in and around the site (now),” Jaffe stressed. “We feel there’s a need for that in the area.”
However, a few residents didn’t buy the “if you build it, they will come” mentality Dey and Jaffe were suggesting. An older couple who said they’d live in Lenola for several decades flat-out told the developers their plan wouldn’t work.
The husband was blunt in his assessment of the plan: “As far as I’m concerned, it stinks. You’re talking about bringing nice stuff in there, it’s not going to work … It looks good to you because you don’t live there. I’ve lived there for 72 years.”
Timothy Daniels, who lives across from the site in question, behind the old Getty station—which LRS is also in the process of purchasing for future development in tandem with the Auto Mall site—was also doubtful about the “upscale” proposal.
“You say you want to put an upscale home in a low-scale place. Who’s going to want that?” he asked. “Build it in Camden. Nobody’s going to come up into Camden.”
Dey and Jaffe attempted to persuade the audience the type of development they propose would yield further development, creating a domino effect that would, ideally, revitalize Lenola. Dey pointed to other Jersey communities, like Collingswood and Hoboken, that faced the same problem—a “low-scale” perception that discouraged development—and made it work.
“Because somebody initially believed and took the initiative and made the investment,” said Dey.
Other residents were less critical of the plan, but raised other concerns regarding traffic and adequate parking.
Harry McVey, Moorestown’s former community development director, said 20 rental units on a roughly 1-acre site seemed “intense,” but added, “I’d love to see it developed … If it’s done properly, with the proper architecture, it’d be a welcome addition.”
Dey and Jaffe were sensitive to the concerns of the residents, and stated at the outset the purpose of the meeting was to gauge public interest and solicit suggestions.
“From the beginning we’ve said, we’re not going to do anything the community doesn’t want,” said Dey. “We’ve never done that. But certainly not in a community we live in.”
A number of residents said there wasn’t enough notice for the meeting and suggested the group hold a second forum, with more advance advertisement.
Dey said they would hold another meeting, and planned to bring a traffic consultant to address some of those concerns.
Stay with Moorestown Patch for more information on this story as it becomes available.What do you think should go on the Lenola Auto Mall site? Tell us what you think in the comments below.