Township looking for community input for future for VTC

Community survey addresses E-Sports, a beer garden, the township library and more

The Voorhees Township Economic Development board is currently collecting data from South Jersey residents through a community survey regarding the future development of the Voorhees Town Center.

The anonymous survey, which can be completed by both township residents and those that live outside of Voorhees Township, seeks to obtain feedback about what the community would like to see the former Echelon Mall contain in the near future.

The creation of the survey, according to a written statement to The Sun by Voorhees Township officials, was in response to recognition that the traditional style of malls are no longer successful, while also seeking to find out what would be most impactful in drawing residents back to the Voorhees Town Center.

“It is understood that the old paradigm for malls is no longer viable,” township officials said in the statement. “Research has shown that people still want a place to congregate. Malls with incorporated mixed uses have proven to be successful elsewhere. Merging experiential activities along with shopping, educational facilities, healthcare, government/municipal officers and commercial offices have helped failing malls to revitalize.”

Moving forward, the township hopes to work with the potential new buyer in making the Voorhees Town Center a destination location for more than just residents of Voorhees Township.

“The commissioning of the survey was a logical step in identifying levels of interest of our area residents,” township officials said. “As in the past, the mall will be a destination for residents in the surrounding communities, not just Voorhees. We expect the survey to measure public interest in some of the potential occupants such as a trampoline park, beer garden, adult arcade venue and an E sports facility.”

The township is aiming for a goal of at least of 5,000 responses by the end of February to help in identifying potential future uses and potential occupants.

In the survey, responders can show their interest or disinterest in six main potential additions to the Voorhees Town Center, one of which being the inclusion of a library.

According to multiple township officials, the township engaged in previous discussions with Camden County about possibly relocating the Vogelson Regional Library, which is a part of the Camden County Library System, from across the street into the town center.

“At the outset of this project, the township initiated discussions with the county regarding the feasibility of relocating the 40-year-old Vogelson County Library into the mall and there appeared to be initial interest,” said the statement.

However, as discussions of the Voorhees Town Center being revitalized have continued, the township has also considered the possibility of pulling out of the county system and starting its own library.

“From the outset, it was determined that a state-of-the-art library in the mall would bring the foot traffic to help revitalize this endeavor. The township did a financial analysis and ascertained that the budgetary savings by leaving the county library system would be sufficient to construct, staff and operate a municipal library in the mall and potentially even see a cost savings,” said the statement. “Several municipalities have opted out of the county library system… leaving the county library system would require a referendum vote by our residents. The township committee is currently carefully reviewing the matter.”

The survey poses the question to residents that if such a switch to a township-run library would save taxpayers $500,000 per year, would it be something residents would be in favor of supporting?

According to the Redevelopers Agreement previously passed by township committee, space has been reserved within the town center for the potential library, as well a potential indoor Jake’s Place location. According to its website, Jake’s Place playgrounds are specially constructed to be all-inclusive spaces for all children, “both those who are able and those with disabilities.”

While neither is confirmed to be going into the Voorhees Town Center at this time, the township has expressed significant interest in making the indoor Jake’s Place location possible following the hopeful sale of the Voorhees Town Center to a potential new buyer, as it would become the first indoor location in the state.

Lastly, the township is continuing to express interest in the potential of an E-Sports facility at the town center, as the trend continues to grow in recent months and years. Eastern Regional High School and Voorhees Township have had preliminary meetings with Rowan University on potential partnerships, according to school and township officials.

The survey also allows for residents to add questions, comments or concerns regarding the issue.