Tax incentives draw another development to Camden waterfront
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- A handful of southern New Jersey and Philadelphia businesses are planning to move into office space on Camden's formerly industrial waterfront in the latest development in a citywide revitalization effort driven by tax incentives.
The law firm Archer & Greiner, based in Haddonfield and Philadelphia, and the Cherry Hill-based supply chain company NFI Industries are among many firms planning the move to the mixed-use development, said Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli. He said the project will include 1.7 million square feet of office space and 300 homes, along with stores and restaurants.
Camden's Democratic mayor, Dana Redd, and Republican Gov. Chris Christie scheduled a news conference for Thursday afternoon to announce details of the plan by developer Liberty Property Trust, a Malvern, Pennsylvania-based firm that owns several Philadelphia office buildings.
The area along the Delaware River, directly across from Center City Philadelphia and once home to plants for RCA, Campbell Soup and other companies, would become the latest to attract jobs because of a tax incentive law that Christie signed in 2013. The law gives special deals to firms willing to move to the city, which has long ranked among the nation's most impoverished.
Cappelli said construction should happen quickly so that the developer and the companies that will move in can take advantage of the incentives. He said the entire development could be completed within five years.
Developing that stretch just south of the Ben Franklin Bridge has long been seen as a key to rebuilding Camden.
After the last factories there closed in the early 1990s, the area was reimagined as a destination for visitors. It now has a minor-league baseball stadium, aquarium, concert venue and a lone luxury apartment building.
But among the attractions are acres of surface parking lots -- enough to hold 8,500 cars this weekend for people headed to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia.
Back in the 1990s, there was a plan to have an aerial tram over the river launch from there; later, there was work on building a museum of recorded sound along with homes and offices. None of those ideas came to fruition.
Cappelli said it's different this time because Liberty is a credible developer and because of the incentives for companies to move in. The firm is the lead office developer at Philadelphia's former Navy Yard and is building a second skyscraper for Comcast.
The tax incentives have sparked a building boom in Camden. Businesses can get tax credits over 10 years equal to up to the cost of their buildings so long as they meet conditions such as bringing a promised number of employees to the city and keeping them there.
The Philadelphia 76ers are putting their offices and practice courts on one parcel near the waterfront and Subaru is moving its North American headquarters to another spot in Camden from suburban Cherry Hill.
So far, nearly all the companies that have agreed to move to Camden have come from nearby towns in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Some Camden residents have said they fear that the people who live in the city won't benefit from the new jobs.
In addition to the efforts to attract jobs to Camden, the state has taken over the school district and the county government has assumed responsibility for policing in the last few years.
Much of the waterfront property is owned by the state government and is exempt from city property taxes.
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