RENEWing the Neighborhood: Parkside Business and Community in Partnership brings commercial opportunities to Haddon Avenue.
One of the first and most important steps when revitalizing a neighborhood is bringing in viable businesses that will generate revenue for the community, while offering goods and services that its residents need.
That’s the goal of RENEW, a mixed-use commercial building under development on the corner of Haddon Avenue and Liberty Street in the Parkside neighborhood of Camden. The project was created by the Parkside Business and Community in Partnership (PBCIP), a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 1993. The community-driven organization takes a holistic approach by integrating commercial revitalization, housing and quality-of-life initiatives in order to restore, rather than replace, the neighborhood.
According to PBCIP Executive Director Bridget Phifer, the organization has rehabbed housing units in Parkside, making the dream of home ownership possible for people who did not think they could achieve it. “We’ve given those hard-working people an opportunity to build wealth for themselves and their families, as well as a chance to have a stake in the things we bring to their community,” she says. “Our mission and work is driven by members living in the neighborhood and through their input we find ways to continue to build an environment that will provide them with valuable assets.”
RENEW is one of these assets. The 22,653-square-foot mixed-use commercial building will integrate street-level retail space and upper-floor availability for PBCIP offices, a community resource room, meeting facilities and leasable office space.
It’s not your average office building, either. According to PBCIP, RENEW will embrace all aspects of sustainability: environmental responsibility, social equity and economic vitality. Phifer says some of the features include: geothermal exchange system for heating and cooling, rain water harvesting to reduce water consumption, tubular skylights and solar shades to harness natural light, water-efficient plumbing, a roof-top vegetable garden and more.
“This will be the first geothermal-based development in Camden, and one of few in the Philadelphia and South Jersey region,” says Phifer. RENEW is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and is seeking LEED Platinum, the highest rating for a green certified building.
In addition, the RENEW building will also house the PSE&G Sustainability Center, featuring interactive exhibits, workshops and tours to educate and inspire visitors on sustainability and how they can become more green.
Phifer says the tenants who have currently leased space all embrace a socially responsible business model. “Inside RENEW, we have a host of health-related tenants including a medical incubator, community pharmacy, holistic healing center and fitness center,” she says. “We will also have an eco-interior design firm and a bakery.”
PBCIP is hoping to secure the remaining commercial lease space within the coming months. “It would be ideal to find businesses that could generate sales tax for the community, such as a small café with healthy foods where people could go for a lunch break, or a book shop. In the medical center, we’re looking to expand the practitioner offerings,” says Phifer, who adds that the center provides administrative support at a low cost.
Tenants have access to Federal and State financial incentives, including business lease payment subsidy.
“Businesses that take advantage of this opportunity are going to be on the cutting-edge in terms of technology, sustainability and overall community engagement,” Phifer says. “This project extends beyond just the Parkside neighborhood, and will encourage visitors from around the city, county and state.” She points out that RENEW will be sandwiched between Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and Cooper University Hospital, two of Camden’s biggest employers.
Construction is expected to begin once all of the available lease space has been filled, and PBCIP has already secured close to $4 million of grant subsidy needed for the project. Phifer says the organization also received a commitment for New Market Tax Credits allocation, which puts them in a position to close on financing and begin construction before the end of 2013.
Phifer says, “The RENEW building is a step toward a sustainable community, leading to an improved quality of life for the residents of Parkside. As a catalyst for job creation and environmental education, RENEW is a positive investment to consider.”
Partnership Business and Community in Partnership is located at 1487 Kenwood Avenue in Camden. For more information about tenant space at the RENEW building, contact Bridget Phifer at (856) 964-0440 or visit SustainableParkside.org.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 3, Issue 7 (July, 2013).
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