Since 2009, Camden City has received $4,444,709 from the EPA for environmental remediation, largely through grants to the Camden Redevelopment Agency. With that total, $1,144,710 has gone towards community-wide assessments, which is more than 25% of all federal environmental grants given to the city and agency since 2009, according to the EPA’s website. These grants have gone towards the partial cleanup and remediation of 11 different brownfield properties. This sounds great, especially since the city was left so damaged after the de-industrialization of the country. It’s an environmental and health necessity for these sites to be cleaned up.
Beyond this need, I do have to question this staggered process. Why is the City, CRA, and EPA, partially funding eleven different projects, rather than having a few of them entirely completed? I understand that in some circumstances, the poisonous materials left behind may have needed immediate attention in the name of public health. However, the spread of such needed money contributes further to the city’s issue of blight. There is not one neighborhood in the city that exists without blight, which is a real shame. There are some very beautiful homes in Camden, but unfortunately they neighbor decrepit homes and buildings.
The Downtown has the opportunity to be that one blight-free area, yet it seems as though RCA Building 8/The Radio lofts will remain as-is for who knows how much longer, leaving a pock mark on the neighborhood. This past June, an announcement was made about the EPA giving nearly $1 million to the CRA, and from that total, $200,000 would be given towards the remediation of RCA Building 8. Within a Courier Post article about the latest EPA grant, officials noted how the distributed funds would only cover a fraction of each of the projects’ total costs. A philly.com article from this past April stated that the CRA had so far secured $4.5 million in grants for remediation of the property, all while still falling short by $1.1 million. The article also mentioned that Dranoff Properties would not begin to revitalize the building until it had been completely cleaned of all toxins. Following the latest round of EPA grants, it seems as though the Radio Lofts project still falls short by $900,000 in needed remediation funds. Therefore, who really knows how much longer it will be before something becomes of the building? Who knows how much longer it will take for Downtown Camden to be blight-free?
Maybe we can try to consolidate some of these grants, and finally finish some projects…