By Steve Patterson

EVESHAM TOWNSHIP, N.J., (CBS) — Change is coming to a stretch of Route 70 in Evesham Township, Burlington County.

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“I think we’re going on at least a decade now,” Mayor Randy Brown said.

Ten years of this — one of South Jersey’s retail dead zones.

A huge, ugly complex. Mostly and sometimes entirely vacant.

“Our expectations for Evesham is first class quality, and this wasn’t first class quality,” Brown said.

Mayor Brown says he grew up here, he can’t stand it, and when he closes his eyes at night – he sees this:

“We’re going to turn this sea of asphalt into Evesham’s version of Disneyland,” he said.

Disneyland it may not be, but the nearly $30 million plan unveiled jointly Tuesday by the Township and Developer RD Management is vastly different.

Transforming the vacant strip into high-end apartments, restaurants and boutiques, creating more than 100 permanent jobs.

“Reduce property taxes, and grow the economy and bring jobs. A project like this hits all three of them,” Brown said.

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It took years of fighting between the developer and the mayor to come up with a plan that satisfied everyone.

They wanted storefronts. He wanted, well you heard him: Disneyland.

“We fought. There’s no doubt. We fought and we fought hard. I fought for what residents believed in and he fought for what he believed in,” Brown said.

(Reporter:) “Did it get in the way?”

“I think it did. No doubt,” Brown said.

“The town definitely needs it. I’d like to see it actually be fulfilled,” Rick Rodriguez of Evesham said.

Compromise came in October.

Residents say whatever vision gets built, it’s clearly better than this.

“We shouldn’t be sitting with a vacant shop like this,” Brown said.
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