Old Pennsauken Mart to become apartment complex

Posted: June 20, 2007

For years, Camden County officials have wanted to eliminate the eyesore at the county's northwestern gateway.

Wednesday, they announced plans to bring an upscale $100 million apartment complex to the site of the former Pennsauken Mart, a New Jersey shopping icon whose dilapidated buildings once housed more than 100 low-end retailers.

Renaissance Walk, a complex of 550 to 612 apartments, will be developed by Renaissance Partners L.L.C., of Gibbsboro. Rents will start at $1,100 a month and go as high as $2,000 a month for the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, Pennsauken Mayor Rick Taylor said.

The developer agreed to pay the Camden County Industrial Authority $12 million for the property, county officials said.

In April, the county said it would receive $16.5 million in state money to help redevelop the site.

The 31-acre plot at the junction of Routes 73, 90 and 130 will be designed for young professionals who commute into Philadelphia on the Betsy Ross, Tacony-Palmyra and Benjamin Franklin Bridges. The apartment complex will include a clubhouse and private garages, as well as common parking, said officials familiar with the plans.

The developer could not be reached for comment.

"We thought it was a home run because, of all the things this town has, one thing we don't have is upscale apartments," Taylor said.

The county authority bought the property in 2004 for $13.2 million. The site has an additional four acres, which the authority intends to sell.

A hotel is eyeing the property, which could bring retailers and a restaurant with it, Taylor said.

"We have an idea of what the best use would be," said Jeffrey Swartz, the authority's executive director. "But we'd like the market to tell us."

The struggle to redevelop the parcel has been going on for more than five years. The mart closed in January 2006 after more than 50 years.

In 2005, the county scrapped plans to build a convention center and hockey arena. Last year, Beezer Homes USA Inc. backed out of negotiations to build houses, when the housing market took a downturn.

But that same softening in the market sparked an opportunity for rental-property development, Swartz said. That is when Renaissance Partners stepped in.

The company plans to begin construction next spring.

"This is what we envision as the gateway to Camden County," Swartz said. "It's going to bring new young professionals back into Camden County because they will have new housing stock in which to live."

Contact staff writer Joseph Galante at 215-854-5194 or jgalante@phillynews.com.

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