Although he knew the work was imminent, Verde Salon owner Kevin Gatto was taken aback when the kick-off to Phase III of the LumberYard construction began.
At least he had a front-row seat to the show.
"I had no idea it was happening today," Gatto said. "I don’t know if they just jumped on the fact that it was nice weather today. I’ve been so focused that I really wasn’t paying much attention.
"We looked up and we saw the backhoe start to knock it down, and we all stopped and started staring at it," he said.
As the first blows were struck Thursday, Gatto and his staff all stopped working and watched, together with customers. An odd catharsis came over him.
"We all wanted to see if we could pay ten bucks and take a turn at [smashing] it to vent some of our aggressions on the building," Gatto said. "That empty lot’s been driving me crazy for five years."
Crews kept the dust to a minimum with spray from a hose, he said, and the construction plan shouldn't interfere with foot and car traffic on the street. In fact, the sooner the residents are able to move into the property, the better for his business, be they renters or owners.
"For me, it’s five years waiting," Gatto said. "I’m super-excited to see the progress, the new building going up and new people coming in."
Aenigma owner Lynda Kane, who sits on the board of the LumberYard condo association, said she's "thrilled that something's going on.
"I bought my building, so I own it," Kane said. "I have a vested interest in it to make sure that things are okay. Even though I don’t sleep here, I live here more than I do my home."
To Kane, the hustle of construction equipment is a sign that the job is edging closer to wrapping up, which she said is good news.
"When this is completed, the whole thing will be what it was supposed to be five years ago," she said. "Whatever comes in, it will be great."
Kane said that despite the housing crash and the fact that the lot has laid bare while setting up the terms of the latest arrangement with the Ingerman Group, she is confident that the project will continue to draw shoppers, diners, and guests to Collingswood.
"It really keeps Collingswood on the map, and it’s what makes Collingswood what it is," she said.