Morning Headlines: Camden’s Long Delayed Radio Lofts Project Still … Delayed

Radio Lofts at Front and Cooper Street | Google Street View

Radio Lofts at Front and Cooper Street | Google Street View

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: the condo project has Radio Lofts in Camden is (still) stalled. It’s been around a decade since Carl Dranoff had planned to bring 86 high-end lofts to the Cooper-Grant neighborhood in Camden. The Inquirer reports that there is no start in sight for the project, largely due to lack of funds to properly remove the concrete floors that contain harmful toxins.

The Camden Redevelopment Agency, which owns the property, secured $4.5 million in grants for environmental remediation but still faces a shortfall of about $1.1 million, said agency director Saundra Johnson. The agency is responsible for cleaning up the property before Dranoff can complete the work, and Johnson said the agency was working to secure additional funding.

Yikes. Deemed structurally sound by city officials and not dangerous, the property is a severe eyesore to the area and currently has a fence around it. Up until a few years ago, it was also a drug haven and neighbors were concerned that Dranoff might pull out all together. Dranoff told The Inquirer in an email: “We remain as committed as ever to redevelop Radio Lofts.”

Dranoff has a lot going on at the moment. In the city, he’s in the thick of things as the SLS International Hotel & Residences, One Riverside and the Royal Theater. He’s also about to kick the tires on his other long-planned project called One Ardmore Place at the Cricket Avenue Lot in Ardmore.

A Must-Read from Citified:

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Morning Headlines: Camden’s ‘Waterfront Abyss’ Wins Parking Tournament

Camden's waterfront | Via Google Street View

Camden’s waterfront | Via Google Street View

Camden has been making strides to change its image over the past few years. The state has offered huge incentives to companies willing to relocate to the city (hello, 76ers and Subaru) and a recent reports show that there has been a near 50% reduction in gunfire within city limits thanks to a technology called ShotSpotter. For all that promise comes some obvious news, Camden’s waterfront has a ton of surface parking lots. In fact, it recently won Streetsblog’s annual ‘Golden Crater’ award–a winner-take-all tournament style that pits urban parking pits against each other. The vote was close, but Camden took home the gold. Um, congratulations?

Even hollowed-out Parkersburg, West Virginia — with a name that seemed destined for victory in this contest — fell short in the championship match. Camden emerged from the final poll with a 15-vote margin to claim the third annual Golden Crater title, joining Tulsa and Rochester.

 More Headlines:

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Here’s How Camden Reduced Gunfire by Nearly 50 Percent

shotspotter sensor diagram

Basic ShotSpotter sensor diagram | ShotSpotter.com

Yesterday Camden County released data from ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection tool that allows cities to track gunfire and develop proactive policing strategies as a result.  The latest numbers show that between 2013 and 2014, the city of Camden experienced a 48 percent drop in gunfire — the third largest of 28 cities for which ShotSpotter has year-over-year data.

This puts Camden ahead of several larger cities in terms of gunfire reduction, most notably Chicago, Milwaukee and Oakland, California. It also coincides with a broader drop in crime in Camden: violent crime is down by 21 percent; homicide is down by 42 percent; and homicide by shootings is down by 46 percent.

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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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