Higher education, healthcare institutions lead revitalization efforts in Camden

Rowan University at Camden has joined with other "Eds and Meds" in the city to improve the quality of life in the city and to support the redevelopment of Camden's neighborhoods, according to a new report.

A 4.4 percent growth in employment of Camden residents, a $73 million increase in total payroll, a 31 percent growth in Camden City college enrollment, a 28 percent growth in patient visits and the addition of a medical school, a graduate-student dormitory, an early-learning center, and a Barnes & Noble bookstore with a Starbucks café are just a few of the achievements made by Camden’s major higher education and healthcare anchor institutions during the last decade.

Those accomplishments were highlighted in a report recently released by the Camden Higher Education and Healthcare (CHEHC) Task Force.

Since 2002, the CHEHC member entities – Rowan University, Cooper University Hospital, CAMCare Health Corp., Camden County College, Lourdes Health System, Rutgers University–Camden, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Virtua Health – have collaborated to help improve the City of Camden. They also have teamed to improve the quality of life of city residents and support the redevelopment of Camden’s neighborhoods, according to the report.

“Camden’s higher education and healthcare institutions are leading the city’s revitalization,” said Task Force chair Louis S. Bezich. “These anchor institutions are key to the city’s economic health because of their employment and significant purchasing power. They are fundamentally rooted to Camden by real estate, capital investments and a client base, among other factors.”

The report details how the Task Force members have collectively leveraged the state funding provided to them through the 2002 Camden Municipal Rehabilitation and Economic Recovery Act over the last 10 years. The report follows an economic-impact report completed in 2004; housing-interest surveys completed in 2006 and 2009; and a five-year summary report completed in 2007.

“The report highlights the commitment and energy of the anchor institutions to make a difference in the City of Camden,” says Tyrone W. McCombs, assistant provost and dean of Rowan at Camden, noting that Rowan has been a dedicated partner in the city, providing a host of academic programs and services, for more than 40 years.

“The task force report also reveals the importance of town/gown relationships between institutions of higher education and city residents,” McCombs continues.

“Through our efforts, and the collective efforts of our neighbor institutions, we’ve established quality educational collaborations with city schools that begin as early as pre-kindergarten, last through high school, and culminate with a successful transition to higher education. In return, community members are prepared to launch their careers and positively impact the city’s future.”

Under the $175 million Camden Act, $47.7 million was set aside for the “Eds & Meds” of the CHEHC. Throughout the last decade, substantial returns of all sizes have been made on that investment.

Among these is the growth in employment of Camden residents by the Task Force member institutions. In 2011, 997 jobs—692 full-time and 305 part-time—were held by city residents. That is 4.4 percent more than residents held 10 years prior.

Also, the total Task Force payroll grew to be more than $528 million by 2011. This is approximately $8 million more than it was in 2010 and $73 million more than it was in 2001.

In addition, 2,758 more college students were being educated in the city in 2011 than had been in 2001. The 2011 total of 11,558 included 2,191 city residents and 9,367 non-residents.

Also, 142,075 more visits were made by medical patients to Task Force institutions in 2011 versus 2001. The 2011 total of 642,075 included 295,475 visits by city residents and 346,600 visits by non-residents.

A number of impressive and impactful facility projects have brought more people and activity to Camden. Rowan has contributed to the city’s growth and expansion through the following projects:

•  The $139 million Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. The inaugural class of 50 students began studies in this 200,000-square-foot facility at South Broadway and Benson Street in August.

•  Renovation of the University District Bookstore on the Camden Campusinto a Barnes & Noble bookstore and Starbucks café, which was completed in 2011. This $350,000 project affected 13,500 square feet of the Camden Technology Center and upgraded the service and amenities that already were offered to students attending the Camden campuses of Rowan, CCC, and Rutgers.

•  Renovation has begun on the historic First Camden National Trust Bank. The University will utilize state revitalization funds to restore the building, transforming it into the academic home of the University’s undergraduate and graduate programs currently offered in Camden.

Finally, initiatives undertaken by the Task Force institutions also have contributed to the existence, continuation or improvement of more than 90 smaller-scale entities, programs or projects that are based within the City of Camden.