Local leaders promised the overhaul would facilitate greater economic development along one of the gateway corridors linking the city and its inner-ring suburbs.
By Matt Skoufalos
Calling it an opportunity to improve a vital economic corridor and gateway to the city, Camden County and city leaders announced the second phase of a $4.4-million “roadway transformation” project for Haddon Avenue.
The first phase of the project, which overhauled the roadway from Euclid Avenue to Vesper Boulevard in the city, was begun a year-and-a-half ago.
This second phase is expected to be completed by January 2017, and will continue the work along Haddon Avenue from Vesper Boulevard to the Old White Horse Pike. The $4.4-million project is funded by $1.1 million in federal grants and $3.3 million from the county government.
In addition to adding separate stormwater management and new traffic signals, ADA accessibility, and lighting, the roadway reconstruction will pave the way for greater economic development of the city, said Camden County Freeholder Susan Shin Angulo.
Given its proximity to the Ferry Avenue PATCO station, the improvements to pedestrian walkways and bike paths will allow for an easier commute to work and school, while making the area comfortable for secondary businesses like eateries, retail, and possibly outlet shopping, Shin Angulo said.
Shin Angulo also acknowledged the need for safety improvements to benefit cyclists and pedestrians to be extended further down Haddon Avenue, into the inner-ring suburbs. When asked whether bike lanes and walking paths could be pushed into the stretches of Haddon Avenue that run through Collingswood, Haddon Township, and Haddonfield, she responded, “We’re trying.”
Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez described the improvements as “prepar[ing]for the growth of existing and future institutions” along one of the oldest roadways in the county.
Amid an “unprecedented” $2 billion of economic investment in the city, the gateway transformation will help connect the eastern and western gateways of Camden, accommodating workers, shoppers, and “continu[ing]the momentum of this economic engine,” she said.
Our Lady of Lourdes CEO Alexander Hatala described a vision of his hospital and the Cooper facilities at either end of the city as bookending “Medical Mile,” which will connect in the middle of a meds-and-eds corridor.
“When you think about the dream we’ve had here for 25 years, it has been meds and eds,” Hatala said.
“We are seeing that regrowth through multiple partnerships,” he said. “Eighteen months ago we were dedicating Phase I, now we’re here at Phase II. The best years are right ahead of us today.”
Hatala also announced that a $100-million rebuild of the original Lady of Lourdes facility would be forthcoming, allowing for improved operating rooms, cardiac catheterization labs, private patient rooms, and other patient amenities. Among the changes, the hospital would get a new entrance, and would possibly relocate the iconic statue at its pinnacle in an effort to replicate the look of its Brace Road center in Cherry Hill. Hatala promised that the statue “will have a prominent place” in the redesign.
“Our Lady will remain in Camden,” he said. “It’s too important as a religious symbol for us and an iconic symbol of hope for Camden.”
Hatala added that the gateway transformation will allow Our Lady of Lourdes to shift its employees from other of its offsite administrative locations, and create “traffic, employment, [and]spend[ing]in the city.
“It enhances the economic base and encourages more development,” Hatala said.
One of the first organizations to benefit from the project will be the Uncommon Schools location set to open along Haddon Avenue near the Brimm Medical Arts High School.
Spokesperson Giana Solomon talked about the Camden Prep school as supporting a pipeline of residents seeking to enter the construction trades. She promised that the location would offer free admission first to residents of Whitman Park and Liberty Park before opening its enrollment to students throughout the city.
Throughout the numerous development projects in the city, Camden City Mayor Dana Redd said her office is working to negotiate community benefits agreements to help hire local residents for internships, temporary, and permanent positions with the businesses relocating to the city.
Redd credited multiple public-private partnerships with “help[ing]open the door to Camden,” and promised that the roadway improvement was only “one of many announcements for 2016.”
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