The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Camden, New Jersey was recently honored by New Jersey Future with a 2014 Smart Growth Award at the organization’s annual celebration held on June 5, 2014 at the Newark Club’s Metropolitan Room in Newark, New Jersey.
Designed by Kitchen & Associates of Collingswood, New Jersey, the project aims to provide the Camden community with a state-of-the-art facility, offering local residents a variety of community-oriented services, including recreational, social, religious and cultural amenities within its program. The center is expected to open in October 2014.
Upon its completion, the center will open its doors to a city that is perhaps best known for its struggles with violent crime and urban decay. Approximately 45% of families in Camden live below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate as of August 2013 was 16.6%, nearly double the national average. Some of the problems of concentrated neighborhood poverty often include high unemployment rates, rampant crime, health disparities, inadequate early care and education, struggling schools, and disinvestment. Often spanning generations, poverty such as Camden’s can be a difficult, if not impossible hurdle to overcome. But the creation of safe gathering places within the residential fabric for learning, exercising, worship, and community-building, can provide ‘a beacon of hope and an agent of change,’ reflecting both the heart and the spirit of the Kroc mission statement.
In January 2004, The Salvation Army USA announced that it would be receiving nearly $1.6 billion from the estate of Mrs. Joan Kroc, (whose husband founded McDonald’s), to establish community centers similar to the one Mrs. Kroc established in San Diego. Following a competitive, nationwide proposal process, The Salvation Army regional office in the City of Camden received $59 million of funding. By forging new relationships in the community and partnering with corporate sponsors and political leaders, the Salvation Army was able to secure the additional $31 million to fully fund the project.
Camden officials and The Salvation Army representatives chose to locate the community center on a portion of the former Harrison Avenue Landfill site. The 100-acre landfill was owned and operated by the City of Camden from 1952 to 1971. The landfill is now closed, and the land is owned by the Camden Redevelopment Authority (CRA). It is located on the northwest corner of Harrison Avenue and East State Street in the Cramer Hill neighborhood within the Cramer Hill Brownfield Development Area. The selection of this site for the Kroc center made by local stakeholders, city officials and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) was seen as an ideal opportunity to expedite the redevelopment of brownfield sites that border a 2-mile stretch of the Delaware River.
The reclamation of the 24-acre portion of the landfill for the Kroc Center was realized after several phases of remediation. In September 2008, the NJDEP completed an initial $4.1 million publicly-funded cleanup phase which removed approximately 14,000 tons of industrial waste material. Subsequently 221,000 cubic yards of clean infill soil (from a previous Delaware River channel dredging project) was brought to the site from the Palmyra Nature Cove. It was stockpiled on the site, ready to be located under the building’s foundations and to cap the landscaped areas. From December 2011 until February 2013, the remediation work was accomplished and the Palmyra material was relocated once more into its final location. Since then, most of the activity at the site has been construction-related; the remaining site work – surface landscaping and final top cover – will be completed before the Kroc Center opens October 2014.
The Center itself will be 120,000 square feet, nearly 3 football fields in length, and provide recreational, health, educational, cultural, family and spiritual programming for area residents. It will also serve as the hub for Salvation Army services in the Tri-County region. The amenity-laden facility includes both indoor and outdoor recreational spaces. Outdoor facilities include basketball courts, a regulation little league baseball field with lighting for night games, a softball field, and a soccer/lacrosse/field hockey pitch, meandering walking paths, a playground, and a concessions building with restrooms. There is onsite parking for 250 cars as well as bus parking.
The indoor program is divided to three areas serving the Mind, Body and Spirit. The Fitness space includes an 11,000 SF gymnasium with spectator seating, an aquatic center with 8-lane competition pool and an indoor water park, an exercise center with dance studios, a thirty-foot rock climbing wall, and comprehensive locker room spaces with showers and dressing rooms. There are social gathering spaces for teens and youths, a senior center, drop-in babysitting, a 200-seat performing arts theater, and a 250-seat chapel. Available social services will include a family life and personal development center, classrooms, art room, computer lab, music room, library learning center, a commercial kitchen, an early childhood education center serving 90 preschool children, and a health clinic run by Cooper Hospital. All of these separate spaces connect via an 8,000 SF indoor ‘Town Plaza’ gathering space and café, situated beneath a spectacular glass skylight.
For more information regarding this exciting project in Camden, please visit the Kitchen & Associates News Page.http://www.kitchenandassociates.com/category/news/