Local officials and members of the Biden administration broke ground Feb. 25 on the first leg of a $145 million housing development in East Camden.
The project entails the redevelopment of Albett Village, an affordable housing complex in the Cramer Hill neighborhood that was built in the 1950s, and which local officials say is in dire need of repair.
As part of this first leg, developers will build 75 new townhome-style affordable housing units in three separate locations across East Camden, with plans for an additional 350 homes that would replace the existing 306 units.
There will also be a health clinic run jointly by Virtua Health and the Rutgers-Camden School of Nursing, as well as a communal garden, community center and playgrounds.
“This is no ordinary redevelopment,” Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen said in a prepared statement on Friday.
“By the time construction is finished, not only will Ablett Village residents have beautiful homes, but all Cramer Hill residents will have safer and more convenient transportation access, exciting economic opportunities,” he added.
The project counts on a patchwork of private loans and public financing, like a $35 million federal grant from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and $13.9 million from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.
It’s being overseen by The Michaels Organization, a Camden-based real estate developer that has several major operations on the waterfront in exchange for a $79 million state tax break.
Seven such housing communities have been developed between Camden, TMO and other groups over the past decade, said TMO Vice President Nick Cangelosi.
“Thanks to the support of our local partners, these homes are going to be beautiful, modern and energy-efficient, specifically designed to meet the needs of our residents,” he said in a statement.
The exact economic benefit of tax breaks in order to lure businesses to struggling cities like Camden has been the subject of intense political scrutiny. And several media outlets, activists and government watchdogs have questioned whether tax subsidies were unfairly awarded to politically connected businesses under now-expired state programs.
TMO received its tax break under the Grow New Jersey program, which ran from 2013 to 2019 and under which the state used over $1 billion to lure companies to Camden. But the program had no community benefits requirement, something that was added to Grow NJ’s successor, the Emerge Program.