Grant to help address quality of life concerns around Rutgers-Camden

Posted: June 26, 2014

One wanted to see crime go down and have a safer neighborhood. Some wanted more affordable housing to help combat homelessness and keep seniors comfortable. Others wanted convenience and lifestyle changes so that students at Rutgers-Camden can go to a grocery store and have a place to meet up after classes.

On Tuesday, Rutgers-Camden, along with the Cooper's Ferry Partnership and the Cooper-Grant Neighborhood Association, was awarded a $100,000 planning grant by the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation to begin addressing improvements in the Cooper-Grant/Central Waterfront neighborhood.

"Drugs and this and that. Fighting. All kinds of stuff," said Catherine Thomas, 87, who lives in Mickle Towers, just next to the lawn where the ceremony was held, of the problems she hopes will be addressed. "We need a lot of protection."

The grant will address quality of life concerns for residents in an area that runs along the waterfront from the Ben Franklin Bridge south to Atlantic Avenue. It incorporates Camden's central business district, the Rutgers-Camden area, and the waterfront entertainment district.

Students "want more convenience and more central meeting places," said Myee Ma Watson, the acting associate chancellor for civic engagement at Rutgers-Camden. "You want a cleaners, you want places to eat ... supermarkets ... groceries and stuff for downtown Camden."

Planning will start in mid-July will start with outreach programs to gauge residents' needs. Surveys and public meetings will encourage input.

"Developing a plan for the future isn't easy," said Denise McGregor Armbrister, executive director of the Wells Fargo foundation. "It may not always be convenient to attend evening meetings or respond to surveys."

The Wells Fargo foundation was established in 1998 with a mission to "improve the lives of children and families by supporting the revitalization of neighborhoods in New Jersey, Delaware, and eastern Pennsylvania," a news release said.

The groups in charge of planning hope that if people become engaged, not only will relationships be formed within the community, but the projects will have a better chance of survival.

And they said that the residents who show up will have the biggest impact on what gets planned.

"In an area like this, if you can get 100 people saying the same thing, that goes to the top of the list," said Maurie Smith, the project manager for Cooper's Ferry Partnership.

Residents seeking more information about the plan or looking to get involved may contact Smith at

856-779-3237 @clarkmindock

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