There will soon be a new skyline view of Camden from Philadelphia as buildings spring up on the New Jersey waterfront. High-rise projects in development and others in the planning stages will become a reality over the next two years as a $1-billion project by Liberty Property Trust of Pennsylvania unfolds. It is a vision that George E. Norcross, III, chairman of Connor Strong Buckelew and the board of trustees of Cooper Health System, says has been realized with new developments and relocation of companies to Camden thanks, in part, to tax credits granted by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
“This is a long overdue resurgence of South Jersey’s premier city,” said Norcross, “that will provide an opportunity for people to work and live there. Camden will be transformed from an industrial mecca into an education and research city.”
Plans for the mixed-use waterfront development are the latest steps to rehabilitate a city that was not long ago rated as America’s most dangerous. Today, the crime rate is down, vacant and derelict buildings that attracted drug dealers have been demolished, and companies that promise economic revitalization and jobs have relocated to Camden. Recently relocated companies include Holtec International, Subaru of America, Lockheed Martin and the Philadelphia 76ers. Now, construction activity is focused on a 20-acre Delaware River waterfront property.
American Water building first to arise
The first building scheduled for completion in the waterfront project is the 220,000-square-foot, five-story corporate headquarters of American Water Company. The $164-milliion building plus garage will consolidate nearly 700 employees from other locations in South Jersey. It is scheduled for completion in Fall of 2018. The structure, located at One Water Street, will be a green building utilizing energy-savings construction practices.
Office tower to be tallest on the waterfront
A $245-million, 18-story office tower will be the tallest building on the site. The building will serve as corporate headquarters to three New Jersey companies – Conner Strong Buckelew, NFI and The Michaels Organization. Construction of The Camden Tower, as it will be known, is scheduled for completion in August 2019. The tower will house 1,100 employees and include 800 structured parking spots, a café, and health facilities in addition to the office space.
Residential complex to meet housing needs
A 156-unit apartment rental complex is planned on Cooper Street. The 11 Cooper complex will include studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Eighty percent of the units will be rented at market rate and twenty percent will be affordable units. The project is the result of a partnership that includes Connor Strong Buckelew, NFI and The Michaels Organization. The development is intended to address a shortage of affordable places to live with modern amenities that will attract professionals that will spend money close to home. 11 Cooper will have 5,000 square feet of retail space facing Cooper Street and on-site parking for 190 vehicles. Construction is under way and apartments are expected to be available for occupancy in April 2019.
Hilton Garden Inn is planned
A $52-million, 180-room Hilton Garden Inn is planned on a half-acre adjacent to Campbell’s field. The hotel will be an asset to Camden businesses and organizations that attract visitors from out of town, and a benefit to entertainment venues such as the Adventure Aquarium and other waterfront attractions. The hotel will include a 140-seat restaurant. No schedule has yet been announced for construction.
Plans for Campbell’s Field
The stadium now known as Campbell’s Field will be demolished to make way for a $15-million multi-use sports complex for use by Rutgers University and the residents of Camden. It will feature facilities for football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and track. The development is a result of a partnership between Coopers Ferry and the Camden County Improvement Authority. No dates have been announced for demolition or construction.
Joint Health Sciences Center construction underway
Not far from the waterfront at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Broadway, a Joint Health Sciences Center is under construction. The project is a first-of-its-kind collaboration among Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Rutgers University, and Camden County College, overseen by the Rowan University Rutgers Camden Board of Governors (RURCBOG). The $72-million project is slated for completion in Spring 2019.
According to Kris Kolluri, president and CEO of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, a Camden-based community development corporation: “The ‘eds and meds’ projects comprise the spine of the city. The joint center will offer a platform for research as well as local job training in viable career fields.”
It is anticipated that the project will add 580 full-time local jobs, bringing in $39 million in labor income and generating an additional $3 million in tax revenues, half from payroll taxes.
And more downtown
The Rutgers School of Business, a $65-million project, will be erected at the corner of Fifth and Market Streets. Design of the building is under way and construction is likely to begin in 2019.
The Walter Rand Transportation Center, a hub for two rail lines and multiple buses, is being redesigned to minimize congestion and make it easier for pedestrians to navigate in and around the Center. The design may include up to six stories for office and residential space, with retail and restaurant space on the ground floor. The design process is expected to be complete in 15 to 17 months, and the estimated cost of construction is between $150 and $200 million, an amount that the State will have to determine how to fund.
In addition to the obvious need for workers from a broad range of building trades, a multi-pronged strategy of heavy port-related manufacturing, “eds and meds” and white-collar jobs will require a broad talent pool. To meet those needs, several companies have developed training programs.
Holtec is training hundreds of people in collaboration with Camden County College. The Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors rolled out an initiative to spur employment in the field of health care. Board members have geared the program to recruiting current Camden high school students with the goal of training, educating and employing them as medical assistants at area health care organizations. Health care employment in South Jersey is projected to grow by more than 17 percent through 2018—adding nearly 50,000 new positions.
The bottom line
Not only is the development a boon for Camden, bringing much needed training programs and jobs for its residents, but trade union talent will also be much in demand for the foreseeable future.
According to Dan Cosner, president of the Southern New Jersey Building Trades Council and business manager for IBEW Local 351, “Thousands of construction workers are being employed on these projects. There are at least 16 different trade unions currently involved, and more projects are on the horizon.”
Cosner is referring to Resin Tech, Inc. and others that have expressed an interest in relocating to Camden. While no one has yet calculated what it means to unions in terms of total number of jobs, the consensus is that the trades will be busy and making an enormous contribution to Camden’s future.