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Former prison site on Camden waterfront will be auctioned to developer

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A former state prison site on Camden's waterfront will be auctioned off to private developers by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority under a bill signed Thursday by Gov. Chris Christie.

The 16-acre site of the Riverfront State Prison — which has been defunct since June 2009 — will be sold for $1 as state surplus property to the EDA, which will oversee demolition; find a buyer to redevelop the land for commercial, residential or other uses; and administer the proceeds of the sale, according to legislation spearheaded by three Camden Democrats: state Sen. Donald Norcross and Assemblymen Angel Fuentes and Gilbert Wilson.

After deducting the costs, expenses and fees incurred by the public auction, net proceeds from the site’s sale will be funneled to the state for future redevelopment projects in Camden, as well as the Delaware River Port Authority, which previously fronted temporary funding for the prison’s demolition and improvements in 2009.

“This was the last hurdle to beginning development at the former site of the Riverfront State Prison. The land is in a premium location for a variety of potential uses, each of which would bring jobs and economic opportunities to the city,” Norcross said in a statement.

In a different statement, when the Legislature sent the bill to Christie in December, Norcross said the prison “has been a dangerous blight on Camden’s waterfront for too long. This is the next step in transforming Camden’s waterfront into a destination for tourists, families and businesses.”

Wilson added the sale of the prison site “means new revenue for the state from what was until now little more than an eyesore. It will provide new opportunities to develop and advance projects that are meaningful to Camden City at a time when resources are scarce.”

Fuentes said in a statement the EDA is “the natural choice” to oversee the project, as the bill referenced the authority’s history of supporting successful development in Camden, including the construction of the 100,000-square-foot Waterfront Technology Center that has attracted private investment into the city.

According to the law, the EDA will sell the site through an auction among prequalified real estate developers, though an agency spokeswoman said it does not have a list of potential buyers.

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