Camden's Comeback- UrbandLand ULI
When developer Carl E. Dranoff first drove across the Ben Franklin Bridge to the Camden, New Jersey, waterfront to view a possible site for luxury housing, he was dumbfounded. Spread before him were 20 acres (8 ha) of beautiful, flat, undeveloped land directly across from downtown Philadelphia with stunning views of the city’s skyline.
“A giant red-brick structure that had been vacant for over ten years—RCA Victor Building Number 17—dominated the waterfront,” recalls the chief executive officer of Philadelphia-based Dranoff Properties. “Next to the boarded-up building, I saw tracks being laid for a new light-rail system with two stations. I saw the adjacent campus of Rutgers–Camden with 7,000 students and the growing nearby colossus of Cooper Hospital, the city’s largest employer and now a full-fledged teaching hospital rivaling the great institutions across the river in Philadelphia. I saw a structure perfectly suited for historic conversion—a big, brawny building with huge windows, high ceilings, and amazing architectural details. I saw the beginnings of the Victor—341 apartments plus retail and parking.”
That was 1999, and Dranoff envisioned a Jersey City/Hoboken–type waterfront development with his planned residential historic renovation, the Victor, being the catalyst for a potential two-decade buildout. “I wondered,” remembers Dranoff, “am I crazy or is everyone else?”
Dranoff was not crazy. He was merely early to the transformation of one of the nation’s poorest and most dangerous cities. Seventeen years after that trip across the Ben Franklin Bridge, Dranoff’s vision is being realized. Today, Camden, which in 2012 claimed the highest murder rate in America, is experiencing a rebirth, with some $2 billion in new development planned or under construction. Those projects include the following:
Liberty Property Trust’s 16-acre (6.5 ha) Camden Waterfront development master planned by Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Michael Van Valkenburgh Architects, along the Delaware River waterfront. It will include 1.4 million to 1.5 million square feet (130,000–139,000 sq m) of Class A office space in four office buildings, 210 residential units, a 130- to 150-room hotel, and 4,300 parking spaces.
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