For decades, South Jersey residents – and the nation – watched as Camden struggled to overcome pretty much every obstacle a city could face: poverty, crime, homelessness, political corruption, violence, a drug epidemic and failing schools. No one knew who or what would save Camden, or if that was even possible.
But visit the city today, and you will see change. You’ll see investment, growth and opportunity. And most of all, you’ll see leaders joining residents to roll up their sleeves and get to the work of bringing back their city. There is still much to be done, but take a good look at Camden: progress is in the works.
Building a $180 million, 250,000-square-f00t national headquarters on the waterfront. The company received $164 million in tax credits and will relocate 600 workers while adding another 100 staff positions.
Invested $312 million to redevelop 50 acres along the Camden waterfront for a new technology campus. Relocation of 400 staff members from Marlton to Camden began last month – one year ahead of schedule.
Opened an $86 million, 125,000-square-foot practice complex last fall. The city offered an $82 million tax break over the next 10 years on the condition 250 jobs were created at the site.
Subaru of America
Consolidating four separate facilities in South Jersey and building a new $120 million headquarters in Camden. Construction should be complete by the end of this year.
Brandywine Realty Trust
Developing a 13-acre campus that will include a new PATCO station, a walkway to the Cooper River, parks and bike trails, and a hotel for business travelers. Called Knights Crossing, the campus is planned for an empty plot of land just off Admiral Wilson Boulevard. Subaru was the first anchor tenant in Knights Crossing.
Charter, District & Renaissance Schools
The intense conversation on educating Camden’s children has led to an influx of renaissance schools opening in Camden in the last decade. Right now, the city has nine renaissance schools and seven charter schools, as well as 20 district schools. Parents can apply to any of the schools regardless of where they live; students are guaranteed a spot at the district school in their neighborhood. Officials have streamlined the application process with one common application for district and renaissance schools, as well as some charters. When applying, a student can list up to 10 school choices in their order of preference.
Renaissance schools differ from charter schools in many ways. While both renaissance and charter schools are publicly financed but privately managed, renaissance schools are approved by the local Board of Education and the state Department of Education, as opposed to charter schools, which only need state approval. One of the major differences that eliminates a criticism often levied on charters: renaissance schools enroll students from local neighborhoods, where charter schools can draw from a wider geographic area.
The renaissance schools are housed in newly built or renovated facilities – some schools are still in temporary settings until construction is complete – and offer educational techniques proven to be successful for lower-income students, like a longer school year and programs to enhance parental engagement.
Building a new high school
Plans are in place for Camden High School to be demolished at the end of this school year to make way for a $133 million replacement. Set to be completed in 2021, the new campus will have room for about 1,200 students, up from its current population of 600. The campus is tentatively scheduled to house two magnet schools, forming learning communities within Camden High that will provide educational and vocational training to students.
EDS & MEDS
South Jersey’s healthcare and educational institutions have taken a leading role to spark change in Camden to improve the quality of life for city residents.
Cooper University Health Care has initiated – and funded – many education and medical programs that serve city residents. Three years ago, Cooper opened the $100 million, 103,000-square-foot MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. In that time, the hospital has undergone several expansion projects in its cancer care facilities, including a new $3.3 million infusion center and a $13.5 million, 30-bed inpatient oncology unit.
Virtua will replace its existing family health center in the city with a 36,000-square-foot facility at a price tag of approximately $22 million. With the improvements, Virtua hopes to help provide for and keep track of high-risk patients – like those with chronic conditions or struggling with homelessness or mental illness. A new team called “Ambulatory ICU” will treat complex patients who frequently visit the healthcare center.
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University opened its doors in 2012 and became the only four-year medical school in South Jersey to grant medical degrees. The school currently enrolls 300 students, with plans to slowly grow to 408.
Officials at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center have announced a $110 million expansion of the medical center, noting that the hospital and its surrounding area – called the Haddon Corridor – will look significantly different in a few years. The hospital plans to renovate its original building to add administrative office space, private patient rooms, an expanded cardiac care facility, and new food and pharmacy services.
Rutgers-Camden invested $63 million to build a new nursing school, slated to open this month.
And Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden have announced several developments on Broadway, Camden’s main thoroughfare. They include a $50 million Joint Health Sciences Center to open in 2018 and an adjacent $20 million building for medical training for Camden County College students, plus facilities for Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
Last month, more than 400 people attended the annual meeting of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership to learn about advancements in the city. SJ Mag’s Marianne Aleardi moderated a leadership panel of executives who spoke about their company’s commitment to Camden. Aleardi asked the panelists what they would say if a CEO told them they were considering moving their company to Camden. The catch: they had to answer in two sentences only. Here’s what they said:
“There are many people here in this city who will help you. Just do it.”
Susan Bass Levin
President/CEO, The Cooper Foundation
“You better hurry up. Other people will take your place, and we need you here – quickly.”
Chancellor, Rutgers University – Camden
“The window of opportunity is closing. There is great leadership here, that’s clear, and they offer great collaboration.”
Region President, Southern New Jersey, Wells Fargo and Co.
“There is no better partnership than the one Mayor Redd and other leaders in the city will offer you. If you need to get something done, they will help you get it done.”
Executive Vice-President, Business Operations, Philadelphia 76ers
“We are witnessing a real transformation as a result of our hard work. The city of Camden is not only on the rise, but is showing promise for years to come.”
Mayor Dana Redd
Just last year, Camden received the following multi-million-dollar grants:
U.S. Dept. of Transportation
To support roadway infrastructure in North Camden
Choice Neighborhoods Grant
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Will replace 1940s-era public housing with mixed-income townhouses and apartments
Promise Neighborhoods Grant
U.S. Dept. of Education
(Awarded to Center for Family Services)
Will create cradle-to-college-to-career support programs