Office of the Governor
State Unveils $5 Million Commitment
to Aid Parkside Area in Camden Housing,
Infrastructure, Public Safety Improvements Slated
Gov. Christie Whitman today announced a state commitment of up to $5 million as part of a public, private and non-profit sector initiative to revitalize the historic Parkside neighborhood in Camden.
A host of state departments and agencies will work with corporate, law enforcement and community-based partners to create housing opportunities for new and existing residents, and improve infrastructure, economic development, public safety, non-profit activities and aesthetics in the Parkside neighborhood.
"Revitalizing neighborhoods is one of the keys to a brighter future for the City of Camden," said Gov. Whitman. "The state is continuing its commitment to work with the community to bring investment and optimism back to the streets of Camden and to attract all income groups to the city."
The program will center on improved housing to strengthen and expand the base of middle-income residents that Parkside has long attracted. The initiative will be led by the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) and Parkside Business and Community in Partnership, Inc., a neighborhood-based, non-profit community development agency. The key housing features include:
- The acquisition, rehabilitation and sale of blighted properties on Park Boulevard in the neighborhood. The DCA and the HMFA have committed a total of up to $1 million to purchase the properties. Parkside Business and Community in Partnership will rehabilitate the homes and sell them to mixed-income purchasers.
- A low-interest loan fund of up to $2.5 million to encourage existing homeowners to fix up their properties. The fund will include a share of a new $10 million HMFA program, Home Sweet Home, as well as financing from DCA's Balanced Housing program. The loans of between $15,000 and $50,000 will carry interest rates of between 0 and 3 percent.
- A low-interest mortgage program to attract mixed-income homebuyers to the neighborhood. The HMFA will set aside up to $1 million from its Too Good, But It's True program to make mortgages available to income-eligible buyers in the Parkside neighborhood. The program offers 30-year mortgages at 5 percent interest with little or no money down.
Gov. Whitman and DCA Commissioner Jane M. Kenny said the neighborhood improvement initiative is widespread and multi-faceted, focusing on all aspects of neighborhood revitalization.
"We're bringing a variety of resources together to make a positive difference in the Parkside neighborhood," said Commissioner Kenny. "When the word went out that the state was making a major investment in the neighborhood, the private and non-profit sectors stepped up to assist. This is a strong and essential partnership that will stabilize this vibrant community."
The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has committed more than $200,000 from its Transportation Trust Fund for the resurfacing of a section of Park Boulevard between Haddon Avenue and Baird Boulevard. The funds will also be used to replace deteriorated curbs and sidewalks. The state Department of Corrections will participate in designated clean up activities in the neighborhood.
State Farm Insurance Co., the private sector sponsor of the Parkside initiative, will provide donations and volunteer labor for bi-annual "painting block parties" as well as cleaning and landscaping of medians on Park Boulevard. State Farm will also offer a variety of services to help neighborhood residents and students at Parkside Elementary School.
Camden County Prosecutor Lee Solomon said his office will take a number of steps to improve public safety in the Parkside neighborhood, including stepped up drug and prostitution crackdowns, and new initiatives for police and the public to jointly address the public safety issue. Solomon also said that as a recently designated "Weed and Seed" community, Parkside may receive additional resources to reduce crime in the neighborhood.
Gov. Whitman said an important aspect of the revitalization plan is providing local residents with the tools and resources they need to improve the neighborhood. "Our strategy has always been to rely on the community to identify its needs. By supporting community-based groups, we're assuring that our resources are being put to the best use," said Gov. Whitman.
To that end, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a non-profit operating in New Jersey, will provide financial and technical assistance to Parkside Business and Community in Partnership. The EDA's assistance will allow the organization to hire a consultant to determine the economic potential for the neighborhood's commercial district on Haddon Ave. and Park Blvd.
In addition, the DCA will provide the organization with $55,000 for operating expenses and up to $100,000 in pre-development loan funds to explore the feasibility of future development projects.
Parkside Business and Community in Partnership was established initially to fight illegal drugs in the Parkside neighborhood. Its focus has widened to include the development and rehabilitation of housing. The organization's overall mission is to promote social welfare and combat deterioration in the area.
Parkside is an historic, primarily residential neighborhood that is home to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Camden High School, the Martin Luther King Community Center and Farham Park. The neighborhood is bordered by Walnut and Pine Street to the north, the Cooper River to the east, Haddon Avenue to the west, and Ferry Avenue to the south.
The Parkside initiative is the third major Camden neighborhood improvement announcement made by Gov. Whitman this year. On Jan.13, the Governor announced a nearly $6.3 million housing and infrastructure improvement program in the Marlton neighborhood bordering the Admiral Wilson Boulevard in East Camden. Those funds are being used to acquire abandoned and failing properties, fix them up and sell them to low- and moderate-income families; funds are also being used to provide street lighting for improved safety.
On June 27, Gov. Whitman unveiled a $41.2 million financing package designed to stimulate construction of hundreds of new homes as part of a revitalization plan in the area of Westfield Acres. The neighborhood improvements are part of a major state investment in the City of Camden. The state has provided Camden with more than $2.1 billion in the last five years.