Morning Headlines: Another Eminent Domain Case Leaves Owner in a Lurch

Photo via Google Street View

Photo via Google Street View

Yet another eminent domain case has popped up in the area, this time across the river in Camden. According to the Inquirer’s Jonathan Lai, real estate investor Milton Rubin was offered the short end of a deal by the  the Parking Authority involving the sale of his Commerce Building.

Lai reports the department offered Rubin a price significantly below the $4.5 million mark he had originally intended to sell it for.

The Parking Authority’s offer came in considerably lower. In a letter in June, the agency raised the specter of eminent domain as it offered minus $200,000 – essentially asking the estate to part with the building and pay on top of it.

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Is Camden Really America’s Most Dangerous City?

In this April 15, 2014 file photo, Camden County Metro police officers Lucas Murray, left, and Daniel Torres react to what they thought was a gunshot, but turned out to be a car backfiring, as they patrol a neighborhood in Camden, N.J.  The crime rate always fluctuates, but recent improvements in Camden are getting major attention because of the circumstances. The city’s old police department was dissolved in 2013 and replaced with a force run by the county government. With lower costs per officer, the new force is bigger, allowing for more beat-driven police work and preventative policing. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

In this April 15, 2014 file photo, Camden County Metro police officers Lucas Murray, left, and Daniel Torres react to what they thought was a gunshot, but turned out to be a car backfiring, as they patrol a neighborhood in Camden, N.J. The crime rate always fluctuates, but recent improvements in Camden are getting major attention because of the circumstances. The city’s old police department was dissolved in 2013 and replaced with a force run by the county government. With lower costs per officer, the new force is bigger, allowing for more beat-driven police work and preventative policing. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Another year, another list ranking Camden as America’s most dangerous city. We’re used to it by now, right?

Maybe not. Camden officials are ready to push back against the latest ranking, this time from the NeighborhoodScout website. (Chester, also right next door to Philadelphia, ranked second on the list.)

“The worst days of Camden City are behind it,” says Louis Cappelli Jr., executive director of the Camden County Board of Freeholders.

Here’s why he might be right: The NeighborhoodScout website figured its rankings based on 2013 data, the most recent year for which comprehensive nationwide crime statistics are available. But the last two years have seen an overhaul in the way Camden is policed — and a corresponding drop in violent crime.

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Camden to Begin Demolition of Blighted Buildings

Blighted housing in Camden is being marked for destruction. | Google Street View

Blighted housing in Camden is being marked for destruction. | Google Street View

Sometimes you’ve got to tear down before you can build. That’s partly the idea behind Camden’s demolition program — starting today — that aims to knock down 600 blighted buildings in the next 18 months.

CBS Philly reports:

These are not fixer-uppers. They’re what Camden County Congressman Donald Norcross calls “the worst of the worst” — structurally deficient properties that drug dealers take over.

“They break into them, they live there, they conduct their business in there under the safeguard of nobody seeing them,” Norcross says. “Thus, they turn into these crime factories.”

The first phase targets 62 homes in the city’s Whitman Park neighborhood.
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Another Camden Building Sold for Big Bucks

The L3 Communications Building, via Google Street View

The L3 Communications Building, via Google Street View

Camden’s L3 Communications Building, located at 100 Market Street near the waterfront, recently sold to commercial landlord Howard Needleman out of Cherry Hill in a $35 million deal. The Courier-Post reports that the deal came together after Lockheed Martin Corp. and Cooper Health System agreed to move some of their employees and operations to the site.

Much like with the deal for the new 76ers practice facility, the deal for Lockheed and Cooper is heavily linked to tax breaks through the New Jersey Economic Development Auhtority’s Economic Opportunity Act–who received $107 million and $40 million in incentives, respectively.

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Is Camden on the Cusp of Revival?

shutterstock_CAMDEN-SKYLINE-940X540

Chris Goodman hasn’t been in Camden very long, but already he’s seen one significant change.

“The first year I was here, there was a big memorial on the lawn of City Hall — a cross for every person murdered,” said Goodman, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Policy & Administration at Rutgers-Camden; he arrived on campus two-and-a-half years ago. “It was a big deal.

And now? “That’s not there now. There’s a pop-up park.”

Camden has long been known for two things: Violence and poverty. It’s a regular stop on the “ruin porn” touring circuit for journalists chronicling America’s urban decay — just last spring Rolling Stone labeled the city “America’s Most Desperate Town” under the headline: “Apocalypse, New Jersey.”

But maybe things are turning around.

Violence is down. The bond rating is up. A supermarket just opened. The 76ers are opening a practice facility. The city is rebuilding its governing capacity after an embarrassing state takeover in 2002. There are dozens of small metrics, taken together, that suggest this small city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia may be gathering the strength to escape its reputation as one of America’s worst places.

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Interview: Camden Mayor Dana Redd on Her City’s Revival

Camden Mayor Dana Redd in her office. The city is showing signs of recovery, at long last.

Camden Mayor Dana Redd in her office. The city is showing signs of recovery, at long last.

Related: Is Camden on the Cusp of Revival?Four reasons to think the city Rolling Stone called “Apocalypse, New Jersey” might truly be on the upswing. 

Everything’s coming up Camden.

Known mainly for its violence and poverty, the city across the river from Philadelphia may be witnessing a recovery. Violence is down, the bond rating is up, and a grocery store has even opened. The 76ers are even making it their second home, locating their practice facilities here in exchange for a major tax break. The city is a long way from being placid and perfect, but it’s climbed beyond the depths it had sunk to just a few years ago, when the state had to take it over entirely.

Mayor Dana Redd talked to Philly Mag recently about the work that has gone into reviving her city.   “Ultimately and over time, I expect to see our unemployment rate come down, I expect to see more citizens working, and to attract a middle-class base back to Camden,” she said.

Some excerpts:
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