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.