(Camden, New Jersey) Today, Cooper University Hospital and Saint Joseph’s Carpenter Society celebrated their partnership to rebuild the Cooper Plaza neighborhood. Six houses in the 600 block of Benson Street, immediately across the street from the Cooper University Hospital emergency room, have been rehabilitated and will be sold to families.
In October 2006, Cooper sold 600, 602, 604, 608, 612, and 614 Benson Street to Saint Joseph’s Carpenter Society for $206,000 less than the appraised value. All units were vacant and in various states of disrepair. Since that time, St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society, has transformed these historic Victorian-era homes and given a new, vibrant face to this rapidly-revitalizing neighborhood.
Each of these units had been gutted and rehabilitated using New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency CHOICE funding. All of the rehabilitated houses received completely new electrical, mechanical, HVAC and plumbing systems; along with new roofs, windows, doors and appliances. All units were brought up to code and have been inspected by the City of Camden code inspectors. Three units have three-bedrooms and are priced at $137,000 each and three units have four bedrooms and are priced at $142,000 each. These homes are being sold for single family use to eligible buyers who qualified for mortgages and attended the Campbell Soup Homeowner Academy classes.
In addition, a partnership between Cooper Hospital and Camden County has brought streetscaping and newly paved streets to Cooper Plaza. The County has been paving streets, planting new trees, and installing historically sensitive lighting and brick sidewalks. This collaboration restores the historic character of the neighborhood and creates a walkable, welcoming Health Sciences Campus and neighborhood. In addition, Cooper is also working with the County to rebuild and revitalize three community parks in the area, one of which is directly behind the Benson Street rehabbed homes. Cooper has committed to maintaining the parks for 20 years. This work is set to begin this summer.
“Rehabilitating these homes and recreating a residential area where families can enjoy their surroundings is a large part of the vision for the Cooper Plaza/Lanning Square neighborhood set forth by our Board of Trustees two years ago,” said George E. Norcross, III, Chairman, Board of Trustees. “Our collaboration with St. Joe’s, the State and the County emphasizes the importance of working together in our neighborhoods to bring families back to their homes.”
The Cooper and Saint Joseph’s Carpenter Society partnership is also working together to provide affordable housing for Cooper employees. Cooper has provided down payment and closing cost assistance to employees who are interested in purchasing houses in the Cooper Plaza neighborhood. To date, four hospital employees have purchased homes and there are 64 more employees enrolled in the program with an interest in purchasing a house. “Affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization are key to Camden’s rebirth. Cooper Plaza is a vibrant community with so many amenities to offer, and having Cooper employees living and working in the community shows Cooper’s commitment to the area and invites others in,” said Pilar Hogan Closkey, Executive Director of Saint Joseph’s Carpenter Society.
Saint Joseph’s Carpenter Society
A 501(c)3 non-profit community development organization dedicated to revitalizing the city of Camden through converting abandoned houses into single-family for-sale housing. Over the past 23 years, SJCS has created over 775 homes, over 520 of these are homeownership units. During the past few years, the Carpenter Society has begun working in the Cooper Plaza and Lanning Square neighborhoods and has completed the renovation on 17 houses and sold 13 of these homes to families.
Cooper University Hospital
The flagship of The Cooper Health System, is the premier university hospital serving South Jersey and the Delaware Valley. As the core clinical campus for the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Camden, Cooper is a national leader in medical education and research. With its comprehensive services and cutting-edge technology, the hospital is renowned for its prestigious Centers of Excellence in cardiology, cancer, critical care, trauma, orthopaedics and neurology. Cooper has embarked on a $500 million expansion of its Camden Health Care Campus including a new $220 million patient Pavilion which will open later this year. Cooper opened its new facilities for the Cooper Digestive Health Institute in Mount Laurel in February. Cooper and its community partners earned a 2008 Smart Growth Award from New Jersey Future for the vision of the Health Sciences Campus in Camden.
These six houses on Benson Street were purchased for $50,000 each. The rehabilitation will cost approximately $150,000. The construction work is being performed by Arline Construction, a Camden based construction company. NJ-HMFA will provide $95,000 in subsidy for each house as part of the CHOICE program, with a joint construction loan program between NJ-HMFA and the Collaborative Lending Initiative, the lending arm of The Reinvestment Fund. This subsidy allows the sales prices to be $137,000 and $142,000.