Camden Council advances supermarket plan

Posted: October 10, 2013

CAMDEN City Council moved forward Tuesday with a plan to bring a ShopRite store to Camden, which lacks chain supermarkets and much of which is classified as a "food desert."

Council unanimously adopted an ordinance transferring 39 acres of city land at Admiral Wilson Boulevard and 17th Street, tentatively appraised at $5.2 million, to the Camden Redevelopment Agency, despite concerns that the location may not be easily accessible to many residents.

The agency will negotiate with the developers.

In March, the Goldenberg Group of Blue Bell announced plans to build a 75,000-square-foot ShopRite at the site with the goal of creating a 150,000-square-foot retail center. It has said the supermarket likely would not open until 2015 at the earliest.

A Pathmark on Mount Ephraim Avenue on the southern end of the city closed in September, forcing Camden residents to use small grocery stores, situated mostly in East Camden, or travel out of the city.

Much of the city has been labeled a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, given its lack of supermarkets and access to fresh produce, something the ShopRite would correct.

Critics of the development say its location, connecting South Jersey to the Ben Franklin Bridge, is more convenient for people commuting through Camden than those who live there.

Residents have said the area is not pedestrian-friendly or easily accessible by bus. People living on the opposite side of the Cooper River would have to take two buses.

Tom Rapacki Jr. of East Camden called the supermarket a "good idea in a bad location," saying the plot is also in an area prone to flooding.

Still, he said a ShopRite would be a positive as long as the 250 jobs that have been associated with the store go to Camden residents. He also wants the owners of the store to pay taxes, unlike many businesses that currently make Payments in Lieu of Taxes.

He asked Council members if the developers would be eligible for such breaks.

"Any kind of tax breaks would be discussed prior to shovels going into the ground," Council President Frank Moran said, "at which point you come back and we all talk again."

Council members also passed an ordinance to transfer 49 abandoned properties to the Redevelopment Agency to be rehabilitated and sold as private homes; a resolution to resurface Walnut Street and various other roads; and another to paint three water storage tanks.

Council took questions on the proposed $172 million budget, of which there were very few. Budget hearings will continue at future meetings until a plan is adopted, likely this winter.


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