Prior to 1984, the Camden Waterfront consisted of primarily heavy industrial production facilities owned by Campbell Soup Company, RCA, and a major rail yard and ferry system operated by the Pennsylvania Reading Railroad Company. By 1984, the railway infrastructure had been cleared away, and the production facilities were at the end of their useful lives with employment at only a small fraction of what it once had been. As a result of the heavy industry and transportation uses, the waterfront was cut off from public access for over 100 years.
In 1984, the three principal owners of the waterfront land-the City of Camden, Campbell Soup Company, and RCA-jointly commissioned a planning study by the American Cities Corporation to evaluate the development potential of their collective holdings. As a result of this cooperative effort, Cooper’s Ferry Development Association (CFDA) was founded as a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to creating and implementing a vision for Camden’s downtown waterfront. The study determined that the waterfront could support a carefully planned, mixed-use development of family entertainment, recreational and cultural attractions, as well as office buildings, a hotel conference center, a residential community, restaurants, nightclubs, and retail.
Acting within this vision, the goals of CFDA over the past 25 years have been:
• To establish a new center of economic activity to help rebuild Camden’s depleted tax base.
• To create a significant number of jobs for City residents.
• To improve Camden’s image as a place within which to live, work, visit, and invest.
From its creation in 1984 until 2001, Cooper’s Ferry Development Association concentrated all of its organizational efforts on planning and implementing a high-quality, high-density redevelopment on Camden’s downtown waterfront. This narrowly focused approach has resulted in the creation of a critical mass of both public and private development projects that have established the conditions under which private investment can now flourish.