Community-Driven Plan for a Revitalizing Neighborhood
Project Name: My East Camden
Comprehensive revitalization plan for a growing neighborhood at the edge of the city
Partners: Regional Plan Association; Cooper’s Ferry Partnership; St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society
Smart-Growth Challenge: How to engage a growing but isolated neighborhood at the edge of a large city to create a vision and a plan for a prosperous future?
The diverse neighborhood of East Camden features residential areas, several retail corridors and a large, underutilized industrial district. While it faces some of the same challenges as the rest of the city — deteriorating infrastructure, vacant and abandoned buildings and lots, and high crime, poverty and unemployment — in contrast, the neighborhood’s population once again has begun to grow. The My East Camden plan was developed to leverage that momentum, and to engage the neighborhood in developing a practical, executable strategic vision plan.
The process was driven by a steering committee, and engaged more than 700 residents using neighborhood surveys, targeted roundtable discussions for specific groups such as business owners and youth, public workshops, and outreach to existing neighborhood groups and gatherings. All project materials were offered in both English and Spanish. The success of these efforts is reflected in the continued engagement of local residents in neighborhood-improvement efforts such as rain-barrel workshops, park clean-up efforts and homeownership workshops.
The My East Camden plan is heavily informed by several existing neighborhood plans, and works to leverage the neighborhood’s existing assets. Among the plan’s findings and recommendations:
- The neighborhood enjoys NJ Transit bus service, and the plan recommends enhancing the safety and attractiveness of neighborhood bus shelters. The proximity to the RiverLine suggests the neighborhood might benefit from a light-rail stop. The plan recommends a feasibility study for a shared stop with neighboring Cramer Hill, something that could in the future serve as a TOD hub.
- In residential neighborhoods, the plan recommends infill development to complete the residential fabric, and enhanced homeownership education to expand opportunities for local residents.
- In the industrial area, the plan recommends redevelopment and rehabilitation of under-utilized buildings, including the development of a “production district” that would contain live-work spaces.
- The neighborhood suffers from a shortage of park and open space, and recommends several solutions, including enhanced access, clean-up and programming for existing parks; park stewardship by school and neighborhood groups; the development of a “green living sound wall” to block noise from the nearby rail line and turn an unwelcoming neighborhood border into a community asset; and the implementation of the Camden GreenWay through the neighborhood.
- The plan recommends widened sidewalks, better crosswalks, and additional bicycle racks and lanes to improve pedestrian and cyclist access to the area.
- To improve street-level vibrancy, the plan recommends enhancing existing retail districts through development and marketing of each corridor’s unique identity, reinstatement of a special improvement district, addition of street trees, and better signage. It also recommends temporary uses for vacant lots and facade enhancements that preserve neighborhood context and recognize its diversity.
Neighborhood residents and community groups have already begun implementation of many of these recommendations. In March the plan was amended unanimously into the City of Camden’s Master Plan, and funding has been secured from several sources for ongoing implementation.
Supporting partners: City of Camden; Brandon Pietras Graphic Design