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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Keeping it relevent, recent, and real

Sometimes life just get's crazy. I have neglected this site for a month. I'll chalk it up to the post-inaugural euphoria and having to attend to my job, etc. I have been busy getting the semester started and all that. I have one class working on a project related to commercial development in Camden's "downtown," such as it is.

I realize the economy stinks right now - no, that's not strong enough. The economy has fallen off a cliff - close, but not quite. The economy is barely breathing and this stimulus bill is an emergency inhaler. It might make us ok for a minute, but our economy is very ill. All the more reason to worry about Camden's future. Right now there is no credit and no investment. Several neighborhoods have plans for new development and unless there are $$ in one of the stimulus bills, they may need to put those plans on hold for a minute. I have two interests in this city - commercial/retail development and turning perceived deficits into assets. Most people see Camden's abandoned housing and vacant lots as a detriment that must be erased. I see them as assets waiting to be used. Of course, those assets need resources, resources that are in short supply at the moment. But timing and positioning are everything. If you are ready, then you can take advantage of opportunities when they come. So many cities just sit around documenting all their "problems" and wait for some other government or foundation to "help." Smart cities are always positioning themselves to be ready to take advantage of opportunities big and small. Camden needs positioning. I have no illusions that Camden will be the next Newark or Cherry Hill or Collingswood. But it can be the next iteration of Camden - which may be more appealing than any of those other places.

I gave a little talk to the CamConnect open house event about the potential of retail development. Not surprisingly, there are many people who want more, different, successful, recognizable retail in Camden - but people are very skeptical that it could happen here. Look around. Reality confirms their worst suspicions. We have a revolving door of retail - stores last a little while, then fail, only to be replaced by the next guy. Storefronts sit vacant for long periods. Functioning businesses are often operating on a shoestring and so amenities, inventory, and marketing are absent. The shopping experience in Camden is bleak.

The market for retail is here - it just has to be positioned. Instead of highlighting poverty, you highlight purchasing power in a high density area. It's an alternative strategy to despair. There are any number of development plans for this City and most are not grounded in a realistic vision. They are replica visions that were created by a consultant for some other city - they all look the same. But no one is positioning this city for its success - which requires a vision made by and for Camden.

Suggestion #3 - Camden should be Camden, not a replica of some other city that claims "success." Camden needs a real vision of itself and then should position itself to make it happen as opportunities arise.


Mz.Still09 said...

i couldnt have said it any better you got it right on the money..although i am not as educated as you. i do understand every thing you are suggesting and i agree fully. mr.wakes asked me why i didnt comment more on your blog because i love to write but its mainly because after reading your blogs there's not much to say because i couldn't have explained it better. but another issue are the school systems. As i dont know if i've told you this before but i got to the infamous camden high school and today our senior class received alerting news that the board is trying to close our... WOW.. then what do we do??. Im glad this is ma last year but that doesn't stop me from worrying about my younger peers and where they will end up. Believe it or not camden high is a safe haven to some people because situations at home are far worst or they are jus comfortable in that environment. so i wonder what will happen to them if our school is closed?

Mz.Still09 said...

im sorry for some of my grammer mistakes after the our n b4 the WOW is supposed to be the word school

jenn . ! said...

Okayh I also agree with you that people often do look at what wronq with camden , but scared to invest and position it into a postive light .

The economy is veryh ill and i feel as though the bill that is passed should be a big breath to us and many more .

So now that I sit and think about what the future that camden has instore for me and my peers i hope its the right choice to build us up together & not pick us apart seperately .