When one thinks of Camden, New Jersey, shiny new buildings, lush parks, and safe streets may not be the typical first images to come to mind. But developers want Camden to become, for Philadelphia, what Hoboken is for New York City: a polished, waterfront companion where people can “live, work, and play.”
For a place known for its high crime and poverty rates, and oft ranking as “the most dangerous city in America”, the development is an ambitious one. Will a $1 billion dollar development project, spanning 16 acres of Camden waterfront, transform the region’s economic and community prospects?
One of the projects, called “The Camden Waterfront”, is the largest private sector investment in the city’s history. Roughly 1.7 million square feet of offices, apartments, and retail space complete with high rises overlooking the Delaware River; it is scheduled to begin construction in 2016, with a completion estimated at sometime in 2019.
The massive undertaking comes in addition to $1.5 billion in developments that have either already been funded, begun construction, or have been completed recently. This includes the demolition of 600 derelict buildings, which were thought to abet crime and drug dealing.
Already, Camden has seen a drop in violent crime, thought to be a result of better community policing in the area. Camden has in recent years seen gains in public safety and education, as well as the creation, retention, and relocation of thousands of jobs.
This development boom, so to speak, is in part spurred by tax incentives offered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The credits have lured high-profile business arrivals, like the Philadelphia 76ers practice facility, nuclear fuel processor Holtec International, and Subaru’s US operational headquarters.
The Camden Waterfront project may accelerate the process of transforming the city from dangerous crime hub into yuppie paradise. The city hopes that with the rise in population and the fall of the violent criminal element, longtime residents will find pride in Camden’s revival and enjoy a flourishing of the city’s economic stimulation.
Camden’s proximity to Philadelphia makes it an ideal location for both expanding Philly’s central business while also boosting local economy in New Jersey. Hoboken did the same with New York City when it was gentrified in the 1980s, and now the two are symbiotic in many ways. If things go as planned, Camden and Philadelphia could share a similar relationship, hopefully to the benefit of all parties.