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CAMDEN RISING YEAR IN REVIEW - CREATING VIBRANT NEIGHBORHOODS

HOUSING HIGHLIGHTS 

St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society (SJCS)
St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society (SJCS) strives to improve the quality of life of the people of Camden and its surrounding communities by promoting affordable housing and neighborhood development. SJCS, a regionally recognized leader in the city’s revitalization, provides housing and economic development services that have resulted in increased property values within stable, mixed-income neighborhoods. SJCS collaborates with organizations such as Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and the Cooper Foundation to create improvements of the physical space and provide social programming to revitalize entire neighborhoods.  
 
The Cooper Foundation
The Cooper Foundation continues to create mixed-use housing and revitalization projects with its nonprofit partners, including SJCS and Habitat for Humanity. Over the last several years, the foundation supported the construction or rehabilitation of more than 115 homes in the Cooper Lanning Square neighborhood, along with mixed-use development on the Broadway corridor. The foundation also promotes homeownership through its employer-assisted housing program, Live Where You Work, which offers incentives to employees who move into the Cooper Lanning neighborhood.
 
Restoring neighborhoods, addressing abandoned properties
In 2015, Camden launched its abandoned properties program in cooperation with the Camden County Improvement Authority (CCIA). The program is the largest demolition project in the history of New Jersey and aims to strengthen several neighborhoods suffering from the blight of abandoned homes. Since beginning the program, the CCIA demolished more than 500 abandoned properties, creating cleaner, safer blocks while employing residents in 75 percent of the demolition jobs.
 
COMMUNITY PROGRAMS 
 
Camden Health & Athletic Association (CHAA)
Camden Setting the goal of strengthening community and keeping young people healthy and active, AmeriHealth, the Norcross Foundation, and the Cooper Foundation formed the Camden Health & Athletic Association (CHAA) in 2016. The nonprofit acts as an umbrella organization to support current sports programs in the city while expanding the availability of health and athletic programs.
In 2017, professional athlete Michael Kidd-Gilchrist joined CCHA to host the first youth basketball camp at Rutgers–Camden Athletic and Fitness Center where more than 100 Camden children between the ages of 8 and 13 participated in instructional clinics, which helped them develop skills on and off the court.
 
CHAA also hosted a football skills and drills clinic for Camden youth, partnering with five neighborhood football leagues. Camden High hosted the event, which included a special guest appearance from Haason Reddick, who plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
The second annual Soccer Fest featured interactive exhibits by Philadelphia Union’s The U on Tour. More than 100 children participated in the August event, where they got a chance to learn more about the sport, practice the game, and register for the fall season. The Camden Youth Soccer Club offers programs for boys and girls, ages 4 to 14, to learn to play soccer, improve their skills, and play competitively with their friends. CHAA sponsors the players by providing uniforms and protective gear at no cost to families. Required athletic physicals were also provided free of charge for more than 150 participants by Cooper University Healthcare.
 
Connect the Lots
Camden’s neighborhoods are most vibrant when communities come together to interact with each other. When neighbors, visitors, and civic leaders get together to use the common spaces we share for fun, food, and education, great things happen. A community-led initiative called Connect the Lots (CTL) implements placemaking activities in underused parks and vacant lots to make these connections materialize.
 
The program launched in 2014 in the North Camden and Cooper-Grant communities, with an ambition of enhancing and re-energizing physical connections between the two neighborhoods and other parts of the city. Since then, Connect the Lots has expanded citywide. The objective to create safe, high-quality outdoor spaces is in high demand and is increasingly popular among residents. Cooper’s Ferry is meeting this need with the consistent programming of local cultural and recreational activities while incorporating events and initiatives that address the health and sustainability of the neighborhoods and residents we serve.
 
The warmer weather brings residents outdoors looking for positive ways to have a good time. CTL provides the space and activities to help make it happen. In 2017, CTL reached more than 13,000 Camden residents with diverse, healthy, and fun events that occurred on an ongoing basis from spring through fall. There are now nine activated spaces in locations throughout the city offering programming five days a week.
 
PARK DEVELOPMENTS
 

In June 2017, state, county, and local officials cut the ribbon at Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park, a beautiful new park on the site of the former Riverfront State Prison just north of the Ben Franklin Bridge in North Camden. The development marks the first completed section of the North Camden Waterfront Park, as envisioned by the residents in the North Camden Neighborhood Plan. The park boasts incredible views of the Delaware River, Ben Franklin Bridge, and Philadelphia skyline, as well as a state-of-the-art playground and a multipurpose trail, which is part of the Circuit Trails, Greater Philadelphia’s trail network. 
 
At the footsteps of Camden City Hall stands one of Camden’s premier community gathering spaces, Roosevelt Plaza Park. Opened in 2012, the park replaced a run-down parking garage constructed in the 1950s to serve Camden City Hall and nearby offices. Due to its location at the center of downtown Camden, Roosevelt Plaza Park connects the city’s growing central business, education, and medical districts. It also serves as an everyday gathering space for residents, visitors, and workers, and hosts a growing number of community events, family-friendly programming, art installations, fitness classes, and lunchtime concerts. For the past four years, the City of Camden and Cooper’s Ferry’s Connect the Lots initiative designed and installed a themed “pop-up” installation each year. These “pop-ups” have brought everything from public pianos and planted rainwater harvesting towers to motion-detecting light installations and human-powered water features to the community.
In 2017, Roosevelt Plaza Park was home to the weekly Farmers Market and Music series and CUBES, a unique series of temporary interactive play sculptures that was constructed in the summer and complemented the schedule of events promoting health, wellness, and physical activity. The temporary feature provided the first and only youth-focused amenity at the park and was funded by the Kresge Foundation, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, and the William Penn Foundation.  
  
Other recent projects highlights include the construction of a nature-themed “sprayground” at Von Nieda Park in Cramer Hill, the first water play feature in the neighborhood, and upgrades to Dominick Andujar Park in North Camden, home to the popular North Camden Little League T-ball program.  
 
Looking forward, the next two years will bring an estimated additional $35 million of investment into new parks, green spaces, and upgraded facilities throughout the city including new parks in Cramer Hill, North Camden, and Waterfront South.
 
COMMUNITY POLICING YIELDS RESULTS IN REDUCTION OF CRIME   
The Camden County Police Department (CCPD) is dedicated to reducing crime and strengthening relationships with city residents. The department continues to invest in community policing strategies, state-of-the-art crime-fighting technology, and the training and recruitment of new officers. The CCPD also works closely with a variety of city departments to address quality-of-life issues that impact the safety of Camden’s neighborhoods.
 
The CCPD’s commitment to community policing has become the core of its policing philosophy and strategy. Often recognized as a national model, neighborhood engagement is the first and foremost priority of the department, and its importance is ingrained in officers from the day they join the CCPD.  
 
Based on this progress total crime has decreased to levels not seen since the 1960s and homicides are the lowest in the last 30-years. The men and women of the department continue to build bonds with residents that yield positive results and make the city a safer place to live and raise a family.  
 
2017 Community Policing Highlights
 
Movies with Metro and Pop-Up Block Parties
The department hosted a series of Movies with Metro Saturdays, which are free for the public to attend. The series features family-friendly movies, popcorn machines, snacks, and drinks. Summer months also bring Pop-Up Block Parties held in neighborhoods throughout the city. The CCPD brings the grills and basketball hoops, and officers serve up burgers and hot dogs, and run ball with the neighbors.
 
BookMates
Making change through community policing is more than just fun. The department is involved in education too! More than 30 officers visit schools throughout the city for one-on-one reading time as part of BookMates, a highly successful program that brings officers and children together through the act of reading together.   

March Against Gun Violence
Residents and officers advocate for peace in the streets together as well.  Last spring, the CCPD joined forces with the Camden County Board of Freeholders, city officials, community organizations and residents in the March Against Gun Violence. Chief Scott Thomson stepped up as one of the day’s featured speakers. Also, the department is continuing its programs aimed at reaching at-risk youth through Gang Resistance and Education Training (GREAT) and Project Guardian, which gathers several times a year in churches and community centers to steer young people away from crime and violence.
 
 
 
 

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