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Old Posted Oct 26, 2018, 7:21 PM
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Is a key developer’s departure a major setback for Camden’s waterfront?

(key quotes)

Across Delaware Avenue, on land that had been vacant for decades, a 156-unit apartment complex called 11 Cooper is rising fast. A block south and west, the glass-clad corporate headquarters of American Water and the 18-story Camden Partners Tower office building are rapidly approaching completion.

But last week Liberty Property Trust, the marquee developer of 25 central waterfront acres since 2015, announced it will divest itself of the unused portions of its Camden holdings — three sites for office buildings and one earmarked for residential development — as well as its interests in about a dozen Center City and Philadelphia Navy Yard buildings.


Liberty already has completed most of the infrastructure, including new streets and stormwater management systems. It also has an agreement with a developer to construct an 180-room Hilton Garden Inn overlooking the Delaware River north of American Water, and is in serious negotiations with potential tenants or buyers for one of the remaining office sites, he said.


Nevertheless it's difficult to see Liberty's departure as good news — particularly given that the company in July wrote down the value of its $80 million Camden project by $26 million. CEO William P. Hankowsky, who worked for the city in the 1970s and early '80s as community development director, cited less-than-robust demand for waterfront office space as the major reason.


This is no small achievement anywhere and especially, in Camden, where even modest undertakings often prove excruciatingly complex and setback-prone, or at the very least slow to reach fruition.

Take the proposed Ruby Match Factory office project proposed by Razak for his landmark building, which is in surprisingly good condition. "Renovation Will Start Next Year" a headline boldly predicted — on Nov. 18, 2015.

Many nibbles but no bites thus far. So the old match factory is up for sale, but "we're continuing to talk to [prospective] tenants," said Razak, who also developed the Philadelphia 76ers training complex.


Kolluri said concerns about the scheduled June 30, 2019 sunset of the Grow NJ program was somewhat allayed by Gov. Murphy's announcement of a statewide economic development plan earlier this month. The plan calls for providing tax incentives for economic development in a different format that would require legislative approval, EDA spokeswoman Virginia Pellerin said.

Kolluri also cited what he called "the next big thing" expected to boost redevelopment in urban areas: The Trump administration's Opportunity Zone program.