The city of Camden has announced plans to tear down the Parkade structure, located downtown across from City Hall, and turn the space into a park. In a city desperate for money, is this really the best plan ? Advocates envision the park as being the jewel of a redeveloping downtown. Critics feel the park will just become another home for the city’s homeless. The Parkade was built in the 1950’s as a parking garage and retail space to try to bring more people to downtown Camden. It was plagued with problems from the start, from design where it wasn’t even big enough to handle the cars it was supposed to house. The structure itself seemed to be crumbling from the day it was completed, as pieces of concrete fell on cars and to the sidewalk below. It was also mismanaged and eventually closed with the building of the Cherry Hill Mall nearby being the final nail in the coffin. The structure is now home to many homeless people who live on the building’s edges.
The city’s plan calls for the demolition of the building through a $2.4 million state Green Acres grant. The city, however, at present time has no money to develop the park. The plan for the time being is for just some grass seed and benches until the city has the money needed to properly develop the park. An open space with benches sure seems to give some credence to the critics who suggest the space will be of more use to homeless, and drug dealers, than the walkers, and visitors the city envisions. Another criticism of the plan, is the question of whether it is smart for a city strapped for cash to take on a project that doesn’t generate any income. Many will argue the park will be just another drain on the city with upkeep and policing. Everyone loves a park, but I wonder is it really what this area needs. The city’s waterfront sits only blocks away with it’s view of the Delaware River, and it is like a ghost town on most days. I am a new resident of the Camden Waterfront and feel the last thing needed is a park.
The Parkade building sits right across from City Hall and the Federal Courthouse. It is two to three blocks from Rutgers Camden campus and The Cooper Hospital. The site is also several blocks from a major concert arena. The area needs parking, retail ,and office space more than anything. How ironic considering this was the original intent of the very building scheduled to be torn down. Maybe the idea wasn’t wrong, just the finished product. Currently the people using the court and city hall are subject to trying to find a metered parking spot or park in one of the several pay lots that have arisen to supply this need. The Rutgers students who commute must use a lot on the waterfront and take a bus or walk up to five blocks to their campus. The area also leaves little choice for food, as most of this need is met by street vendors currently. The area could also benefit from office space to be used by lawyers, bail bond agents, and any other business being court or college related.
I agree with the demolition of this eyesore. I do feel, however, instead of a park the city should put the site up for auction with a $1 minimum bid . Let a developer come in and make this area an income and people generating site. We all know the city could use the money, more than a new park.