City of Camden Standing Up and Moving Forward

March 14, 2011

The City of Camden N.J., has a revenue problem, a poverty problem, a crime problem and an unemployment problem. Nonetheless, in the face of these challenges the community leaders gathered at the city's Adventure Aquarium last week were focused with laser precision on the tangible steps being implemented to achieve progress and improvement across all these policy areas.

Mayor Dana L. Redd addressed a 400-strong, standing-room only crowd at the annual meeting of the Greater Camden Partnership. She characterized the energy in the room as "explosive."

At the heart of the community building efforts are the Greater Camden Partnership and Cooper's Ferry Development Association, a team now officially merged into a single entity. Already responsible for important achievements along the riverfront for example, these institutions are the vehicle helping to nurture and shape the city's renaissance.

All the constituencies come together under this collaborative framework. Elected officials from city, county and state government participate as key stakeholders. Also included is the school superintendent, CEO of the redevelopment agency, chancellor of the Rutgers-Camden campus, chief of police, foundation partners and top executives from Cooper University Hospital and other anchor institutions.

The forum was more than just a venue for the mayor to deliver a "State of the City" address. It was a means to measure the resilience of the civic infrastructure, which by any standard may be judged as solid and thriving.

The partners in Camden are deadly serious. They have no illusions about the road ahead. Likewise, they are deliberate in pointing out the success of their efforts.

Launching the Cooper Medical School at Rowan University; Expansion of the Campbell's Soup corporate headquarters; 350 new graduate student dormitory beds for the campus of Rutgers-Camden;
The Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center undertaken with the Salvation Army; and Mixed-use development of retail and transit oriented development near Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital (the Haddon Avenue Transit Village) including the first new grocery store in decades.

One local hero, Wilbert Mitchell, personifies the spirit of solid and steady commitment that is evident in Camden. Mitchell has spent the last 43 years providing an array of education and social services to the city's residents. Whether in child care services, vocational education, homeless assistance or job training, Mitchell is the kind of person helping Camden stand up and move forward.

Details: To learn more about NLC's Center for Research and Innovation's work on community development issues, contact James Brooks at brooks@nlc.org.