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.
“The defining characteristic of this building is strength: it’s in the most unique location, and the feeling that you have when you go in and out of the building is that you’re around the best, the brightest and the most powerful in the world.”
For Matthew Astrachan, Vice Chairman and Licensed Real Estate Broker at JLL’s Brokerage in New York, 375 Park Avenue, which is better known as the Seagram Building, is a leading light among New York’s many famous buildings.
Opened in 1958, the 38 floor building cost more than $36 million to construct and was heralded as a leading architectural showpiece of the time. Commissioned by the prestigious Seagram Liquor Company – a famous Canadian alcohol maker – the building went on to be the family business’s American headquarters. With its floor to ceiling glass and bronze facade, open entranceway, plaza and travertine interiors all designed in perfect proportions, architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and designer Philip Johnson created a building that was at once sophisticated and demanding, showing off the company’s power in style.
“It was constructed at the time for a global and very powerful corporation and what made it stand out is the detail and expense that went into it, compared to others of the same era. They put the money in at the start and it’s stood the test of time,” says Astrachan.
Outside of its prestigious location and high quality build, it was the expansive plaza at the foot of the building – complete with fountains and seating areas – that made it so respected. As a prime property spot in bustling New York City its owners could have decided to make the most of all of the space available to them. By, instead, setting the building back from the main street it gained its place in the history books, even prompting New York’s governing body to rethink zoning laws to encourage building designers to consider of the importance of integrating public spaces into their plans.
“It’s a very bustling part of the city but they managed to create a somewhat tranquil place to sit and spend a few minutes. In an urban environment such as this, it is truly unparalleled and you don’t feel you’re surrounded by concrete. It was very far ahead of its time, which is why today it remains timeless,” says Astrachan.
Made an ‘Official City Landmark’ in 1970, the Seagram Building has inspired numerous skyscrapers since, and was even named the millennium’s most important building by Herbert Muschamp, the architecture critic of the New York Times. It has also had its time in the limelight, featuring in films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 and Scrooged in 1988.
Today, it is owned by Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding LLC and features a revolving art collection and the best and most beautiful restaurants in New York City having the rare distinction of being designated an interior landmark. And as the tastes and demands of the city around it changes, the Seagram building is also moving with the times. A renovation in 2014 saw the addition of an executive lounge and terrace on the 11th floor, open exclusively to tenants who are paying upwards of $170/square foot for space.
For a born and bred New Yorker like Astrachan, it’s a building that embodies and reflects the energy, drive and power of the city around it as much today as it did 50 years ago. “No matter how much this city changes, or how many new trendy areas emerge, this holds its own. You only need to say the words, ‘375 Park’ and everyone knows what you’re talking about. That’s what makes it so special,” he concludes.