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Philadelphia Magazine: Is Camden on the Cusp of Revival?

Four reasons to think the city Rolling Stone called “Apocalypse, New Jersey” last year might truly be on the upswing.

Chris Goodman hasn’t been in Camden very long, but already he’s seen one significant change.

“The first year I was here, there was a big memorial on the lawn of City Hall — a cross for every person murdered,” said Goodman, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Policy & Administration at Rutgers-Camden; he arrived on campus two-and-a-half years ago. “It was a big deal.

And now? “That’s not there now. There’s a pop-up park.”

Camden has long been known for two things: Violence and poverty. It’s a regular stop on the “ruin porn” touring circuit for journalists chronicling America’s urban decay — just last spring Rolling Stone labeled the city “America’s Most Desperate Town” under the headline: “Apocalypse, New Jersey.”

But maybe things are turning around.

Violence is down. The bond rating is up. A supermarket just opened. The 76ers are opening a practice facility. The city is rebuilding its governing capacity after an embarrassing state takeover in 2002. There are dozens of small metrics, taken together, that suggest this small city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia may be gathering the strength to escape its reputation as one of America’s worst places.

“Before I took office in 2010, Camden was literally described as a car with no engine,” Mayor Dana Redd said during a recent interview in her office.  Now, though, she thinks she has reason to think big:  “Ultimately and over time, I expect to see our unemployment rate come down, I expect to see more citizens working, and to attract a middle-class base back to Camden.” (Read Philly Mag’s extended interview with Redd.)

Can it happen? There are still big challenges. Here are four reasons, however, to think that Camden, at long last, is finally on the rise.

 

Read the entire article at http://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/10/19/camden-cusp-revival/#xKD6Sa3itHe6cFPI.99.