This is my first post on Camden. I’ve always been interested in events in Camden, ever since I did some research on the city as an intern at the Institute for Urban and Public Policy at Rowan University, and every few months I like to walk over the Ben Franklin Bridge and look around at whatever changes are taking place. Camden’s economic, budget, and crime woes are well-known, so I won’t go into that here. There is, however, quite a bit of development happening in the city, despite the recent budget cuts and layoffs. The biggest development happening in Camden, right now, has got to be the new Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
The new medical school is a collaboration between Rowan University and Cooper Hospital. Cooper Hospital is a large, noteworthy hospital that is the biggest in South Jersey. They just completed a large addition and renovation at their main campus along Haddon Avenue, near downtown Camden. Rowan University, also, has a major presence in Camden. They have a building on Cooper Street and are about to renovate an old bank building, on Cooper Street, into an academic building. The new medical school, however, is not being built on the Cooper Street academic corridor in the heart of downtown or on the waterfront, but on a busy, low-income stretch of Broadway on the edge of downtown and the Cooper Landing neighborhood, just two blocks from the Walter Rand Transportation Center. This will create the usual response about crime scaring the students away, since this stretch of Broadway and the transportation center are not the safest areas, but Rowan and Cooper are trying to build off of the progress being made in the Cooper Landing neighborhood, which has been largely renovated over the years. Cooper Landing is a neighborhood of very attractive, red brick Victorian townhouses with front porches that have gingerbread architecture. Most of the older homes have been renovated and are well maintained, and there has been some new Victorian style in-fill homes built on empty lots. Cooper Hospital is just beyond the Cooper Landing neighborhood, and the hospital had already built a large parking garage on Broadway, the first redevelopment of an entire block on a street that hasn’t seen much development since the 1920s. The university and hospital might want the new medical school to be near the original hospital campus, but building the new medical school further into the city may be what is needed to finally turn the city around.
As for the new building, it is a block long, with the entrance at the intersection of Broadway and Benson Street, and is scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2012. There is a second block to the west that has been cleared for development for a future second phase. The main building will be six storeys and 200,000 square feet, with large windows and a brick exterior. Inside will be 25 “learning rooms” for small group learning, as well as, a 250 seat auditorium, a multi-purpose room that seats 140, a “Learning Commons” and satellite medical library to encourage the students and faculty to socialize and collaborate with each other. There will, also, be a Clinical Simulation Center, to mimic real world medical situations, and several floors of research and teaching labs. The school would like to have a class of 400 students in the new building, but eventually expand to 1,500 students with the next phase of construction.
This should be a huge catalyst for changing Camden’s economy and image, helping to turn downtown Camden into another University City. Rutgers-Camden continues to expand, with a new highrise dorm under construction, and there is a new park being built next to Camden’s highrise City Hall, equidistant between the new Rowan medical school and the new Rutgers dormitory. You can check out the Rowan website, which has the new building rendering and a cool video to watch, and if you are looking to buy, sell or rent on the Pennsylvania side of the river, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out The Condo Shop website at www.thecondoshops.com.