Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


A Community Center Inspires Hope in Camden

Project Name Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center
Building an anchor for  community change 

Partners:  Dresdner Robin, Kitchen & Associates, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, The Salvation Army

Smart Growth ChallengeHow best to transform a reclaimed former municipal landfill in North Camden into a community resource for the surrounding neighborhood?

“In a dream, I saw a city invincible.” That excerpt from a poem by Walt Whitman – who lived, created and died in Camden – is etched in cement at Camden City Hall. And Camden did once seem invincible, with an abundance of industry and a strong middle class. However, after a long exodus of industry and jobs, Camden now conjures up for some a reputation for violent crime, steep unemployment, declining public health, inadequate early child care and education, and overall decay.

Yet The Salvation Army USA, armed with a bequest of $1.6 billion from the estate of Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, could see a brighter future. In January 2014, The Salvation Army announced that it would award $59 million from the bequest to North Camden for the development of a Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center, one of 27 nationwide. Through corporate sponsors, support from political leaders, and community relationships, The Salvation Army secured an additional $31 million to fund the project.[portfolio_slideshow id=18080]

Set in the city’s Cramer Hill neighborhood and scheduled to open in October 2014, the 120,000-square-foot community center is constructed on a parcel of land directly adjacent to the Delaware River. It will provide a variety of opportunities, including recreational, aquatics, healthcare, childcare, social services, educational, senior, and spiritual programming, to an anticipated 360,000 members of the community per year, including 12,000 children who live in Cramer Hill and adjacent North Camden. The community center plan also includes open spaces with ball fields and walking paths reconnecting the residents to their waterfront with its views of the Philadelphia skyline and Petty’s Island. City officials also hope that the community center will spur private development of affordable housing in the neighborhood.

The first phase of the project completed in 2013, involved remediating 24 acres of the 100-acre former Harrison Avenue landfill site. Many local stakeholders, city officials, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) saw this as an ideal opportunity to begin remediation of a two-mile stretch of brownfields along the Delaware River of which the landfill was one part. The landfill site was also selected because of its proximity to bus routes and a proposed rail station, allowing easy transit access.  .

The construction of the Kroc Community Center incorporates green-infrastructure features such as aquifer recharging with constructed wetlands and bio-swales, recycled content in building materials, and energy-efficient water, lighting and HVAC systems.

As Walt Whitman knew, there is much potential in Camden that only needs heart, imagination, and the level of commitment that those involved in The Salvation Army Kroc Center are willing to invest, in order to realize the dream of a city invincible.

Supporting Partners: Camden Redevelopment Agency, City of Camden, Coopers Ferry Partnership, Cramer Hill Community Development Corporation, Hunter Roberts Construction Group, New Jersey Economic Development Authority,  


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