From the Philly Inquirer:
Within a two-block stretch of Sheridan Street in Camden, 13 homes have boarded-up windows and bright-orange Department of Public Works stickers marking them for a demolition day that has yet to come.
“I face four of them,” said Valerie Roberts, 26, who grew up in the neighborhood and now lives on the 1200 block. “I would love to see them come down. They’ve been like that 15, 20 years, though.”
For decades, Camden’s 77,250 residents have lived among vacant dwellings, which drive down property values, harbor crime, and create upkeep nightmares for residents whose homes are attached to crumbling structures.
On Tuesday, the city will launch what it describes as the largest single demolition project in the state by putting out requests for bids to demolish 61 properties in Whitman Park and three in Cramer Hill. A second phase, beginning in a few weeks, is to demolish 534 properties citywide.
“As a lifelong Camden resident, I feel the same way our residents do about vacant and abandoned properties – I don’t like them,” Mayor Dana L. Redd said. “Camden is now poised to undertake the biggest demolition initiative ever attempted in the city or state. . . . I truly believe this first phase will send a clear message that we are serious about transforming and improving our neighborhoods.”
Phase I will be funded with a $970,000 federal Community Development Block Grant. The second $8 million citywide phase will be financed by a bond to be paid off with revenue from a tax on city parking lots.
Camden has 1,629 abandoned residential properties, according to city code enforcement officials. Of those, 598 met the criteria for demolition and 1,031 are slated for stabilization, city officials said. Not all of the properties have been acquired by the city.
Since 2010, the city says, there have been 464 abandoned properties demolished and 2,272 boarded up.
When nonresidential structures are included, the total number of abandoned buildings in the city may be closer to 3,000, according to a survey by CamConnect, a nonprofit research group based in Camden. The group found that Camden has 8,142 empty lots. Vacant parcels and abandoned buildings occupy 37 percent of land in the city.
“There are far more vacant lots in Camden than abandoned buildings,” said CamConnect project manager Josh Wheeling. “It’s impossible to do something with all of them.”