Can Camden make a comeback? Camden Mayor Dana Redd believes so.
"There is good in Camden! We are gonna do great things and I have confidence and belief in Camden and faith in Camden. We're working to realize her future," said Redd.
Redd unveiled her vision, "State of Camden," during the Cooper's Ferry Partnership (CFP) annual meeting held at Adventure Aquarium today.
With 77,283 residents and 9 square miles, Camden's mainstays include the Battleship New Jersey, Adventure Aquarium, Cooper Hospital, Susquehanna Bank Center and Campbell's Soup.
A report titled "Camden: A City of Opportunity" was released at the CFP annual meeting outlining what makes the city attractive for future development and investment. The CFP represents 30 businesses.
According to the report, the number of Rutgers students living on or around campus will grow to 2,000 within a few years. Camden's higher education institutions have 11,900 undergraduate and graduate students.
Last August, 50 members in the inaugural class at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University began their studies in a $139 million medical school building in Camden. Rowan University is expanding and Rutgers is building a $100 million nursing school there.
Some Camden residents suggest there are signs of struggle despite the progress. Camden resident Maria Maldonado said, "We need jobs because right now I'm struggling."
"The homeless. They're sleeping in vacant building and burnt our houses," said resident Angel Santiago.
Erin Warwick of Northeast Philadelphia said she comes to Camden for the Riversharks and the aquarium. "It would be better if they got crime under control," she said.
Last year, 250,000 fans attended Camden Riversharks games and the Adventure Aquarium drew nearly 900,000 visitors.
The CFP is working to not only change Camden's perceptions but also to "implement high-quality urban redevelopment projects throughout the city to help replenish Camden's tax base and to create jobs for city residents."
Attracting new residents to the city is vital to Camden's success. Employees of Camden County College, Cooper University Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center and Virtua are eligible to receive $15,000 toward a down payment on a home and closing costs under the Employer Assisted Housing Program.
Redd said she'll remain focused on economic development strategies that will help revitalize the city, with the goal of becoming a "city of opportunity and innovation once again."
"I wouldn't serve if I didn't believe in Camden," said Redd.