Camden, New Jersey, took home the 2015 Golden Crater award for the nastiest parking scar in the country, and it looks like state and local leaders aren’t about to let the city rest on its laurels.
Joseph Russell at South Jerseyist reports that, thanks to over $100 million in tax breaks from Governor Chris Christie and the state legislature, Subaru is preparing to move its North American headquarters from nearby Cherry Hill to downtown Camden. Russell says the Subaru project was billed as “a game changer for the city” — a development that would bring jobs while revitalizing the downtown Gateway District. But the site plans, revealed last week, depict a low-rise office building surrounded by asphalt.
The plans call for a building shorter than the current headquarters in Cherry Hill. Brandywine Realty Trust, which has developed some wonderful buildings in Philadelphia, wants to build a squat suburban headquarters located in a sea of over 1,000 parking spaces.
From the perspective of those who thought, maybe, these tax breaks might actually lead to positive change in the city, as everyone working toward them has claimed, disappointment is the kindest word for what we are feeling. Devastation, bewilderment, and disgust are far more apt. This project could not be more disengaged from the city. Those parking spots guarantee that every single Subaru employee will drive in to work in the morning, stay on campus to eat lunch, and drive home at night. They will not interact with the city. Even if they wanted to, they are hardly given the chance. Employees would have to traverse a punishing sea of asphalt to get out of the suburban-style office park.
This plan, should it get built, will set the city back decades. Successful cities and towns all around the country are working to undo the harm caused by sprawling development. Here in New Jersey, office parks like this are going empty as people seek dynamic, urban environments to work in. What Subaru is doing here is guaranteeing that South Jersey will pay for the privilege of living in an increasingly obsolete development model, truly a dying past, for decades to come.
As for local access to jobs, Russell cites a Philadelphia Inquirer story by Inga Saffron, who points out that, though only 65 percent of Camden residents have access to cars, the Subaru site will be separated from the downtown transit hub by a mile-long walk along a “mini-highway.”
Elsewhere on the Network: The Political Environment says Milwaukee traffic congestion doesn’t justify spending billions on new roads, and Bike Delaware explains the problems with “Share the Road” signage.