Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cramer Hill (Camden, NJ)

Plans have been under way for the redevelopment of the Cramer Hill area of Camden, New Jersey, for several years. The Cramer Hill Community Development Corporation (CHCDC), a non-profit organization created to advocate for the community’s residents, has been working contemporaneously to ensure that the redevelopment plan takes community interests into account. The CHCDC has sought to create a CBA with the Camden Redevelopment Agency and the designated developer, Cherokee LLC; once completed, the CBA would be incorporated into the redevelopment plan for the neighborhood. As part of this effort, the CHCDC undertook a comprehensive survey of 245 area residents in order to determine the community’s priorities. The survey was distributed by coalition groups in English and Spanish, and the results were then analyzed by a local nonprofit. Although such information gathering may be financially prohibitive to many CBA coalitions, it provides a good way for coalitions to show that they have been inclusive and attempted to prioritize CBA provisions based on represetative public input.

Despite the CHCDC’s extensive community organizing, the community benefits coalition has not gained the support of numerous community stakeholders and groups. As in the Atlantic Yards and Columbia cases, the Cramer Hill redevelopment plan is slated to include the use of eminent domain, and this has caused some community members to reject negotiations and opt to flat-out oppose the development instead. Several lawsuits have been filed to prevent the plans from proceeding as they are currently formulated (see here and here). The plaintiffs indicated that the coalition was not representative of the community and that they wanted no part in negotiations. As redevelopment plans continue to be revised for the area, it remains to be seen whether these interests will unite to devise any CBA.

(update Mar. 20, 2009.)

The Cramer Hill CDC has presented a new redevelopment plan in response to the Cherokee plan that was criticized for relying heavily on eminent domain. The plan emphasizes infill building and making improvements to existing homes and businesses. However, the plan calls for new development to be located on what's now the site of a recycling plant, and the owner of the plant is not happy. A final presentation of the community plan is scheduled for May.

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