As Camden officials prepare to name a grocery store operator to take over the site of the shuttered Pathmark that stood as the only full-service market in the city, across town they're working with developers to advance a ShopRite that aims to help some of Camden's neighborhoods shed their designation as "food deserts."
The developer for Camden's ShopRite and its surrounding 20 acre retail plaza, has cleared most of the lot on Admiral Wilson Blvd but still needs to take down some nearby structures.
"We're generally feeling very positive," said Jeremy Fogel, executive vice president and director of development for The Goldenberg Group. The past few months have been busy for Fogel, whose team has spent time designing the interior of the market, working with the city on a master redevelopment plan, and identifying potential tenants to occupy the mall.
They've also met with NJ Transit officials to determine whether large buses can access nearby stops and whether any routes or stops need to be adjusted to better accommodate interested shoppers.
In addition, they've submitted a project impact statement to the state department of transportation that looks at how traffic is likely to behave once the shopping center opens. This is particularly important because the majority of shoppers will enter and exit onto Admiral Wilson Boulevard, a key artery for commuters to and from Philadelphia.
The developer also wants to know whether there are any contamination issues with the land. To that end it has hired an environmental engineering firm to conduct a study.
If it's found to be toxic, The Goldenberg Group or the city might have to clean it up before starting construction. If it's too contaminated, The Goldenberg Group has the right to pull out entirely.
"This is a complicated project because it's a complicated piece of ground with a long history environmentally," Fogel said. "It seems like it's had many different owners and projects that have started and stopped."
As a former river bed for the Cooper River, the site also presents geotechnical difficulties in that unstable soil conditions will likely require an enhanced foundation system to ensure the buildings don't shift too much over time.
Strong local support
But the good news is that Fogel is finding city and related officials to be extremely cooperative to work with. "Usually we find lots of obstructive governmental entities," he said. "(In Camden) there's strong grassroots support for trying to get a grocery store."
Sweetening the deal will likely be some very attractive state tax incentives and bonuses that some speculate were created specifically for this project. When state lawmakers passed the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, they included among its incentive programs some provisions and qualifications that precisely describe the ShopRite project, which had already been announced. Fogel says his team is in the process of applying to the state Economic Development Authority, which administers the programs.
Fogel says the target date for opening Camden's ShopRite is 2015.