With Cooper Health System moving forward on a proposal to develop a public school under the state's Urban Hope Act and the grand opening of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, the education and health care sectors have become the drivers for redevelopment in Camden, according to an executive of the city's economic development nonprofit.
"The growth of eds and meds is instrumental, in that they're people drivers," said Joseph Myers, vice president and chief operating officer of Cooper's Ferry Partnership, a nonprofit that works to plan and implement redevelopment projects in Camden. "The attraction they have with residents and employees creates a strong focal point that other developments follow. There will be a plethora of other developments with supporting services, like retail. Plus, there's a housing component to it, and I think we'll see a lot more student housing in the city of Camden over the next five to six years with these kinds of projects going on."
The proposal for the state's first renaissance school in Camden's Cooper Lanning Square neighborhood — which was today announced at Cooper University Hospital by George E. Norcross III, chairman of the Cooper Health System board — is part of a pilot program created in January by the Gov. Chris Christie administration to develop up to four public schools in each of the cities of Camden, Trenton and Newark. Under the legislation, the schools will be held to the same standards as the rest of the state's free public schools, but the projects will be given more autonomy in design, curriculum and operations.
In an effort to expand health care and educational support services for Camden residents, medical staff and students from Cooper University Hospital and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University will provide a variety of mentorship opportunities to the more than 2,800 elementary, middle and high school students who will attend the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy beginning in 2014.
According to a spokesman, while Camden's local government officials helped lead an effort to hire Camden residents for the construction of the medical school, they will not be involved in the hiring process for the development of the renaissance school, as the city's board of education will be in charge of approving proposals for the construction.
A representative for the board did not immediately respond to a request for more details on the project's contracting process.