The state Economic Development Authority on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a 10-year, $82 million Grow New Jersey tax credit for the Philadelphia 76ers to build a new practice facility and office space across the Delaware River on a roughly four-acre plot along the Camden waterfront.
It was among nearly $190 million in tax breaks approved during the EDA’s monthly board meeting for businesses and development projects throughout the state.
The 76ers' project, which the EDA says will bring 250 full-time jobs to Camden with median wages of $45,000, calls for a 60,000-square-foot practice facility and a connected three-story, commercial building featuring about another 60,000 square feet of office space and room for equipment storage and potential future expansion for retail, office or ancillary space.
Construction could begin as early as this fall and be ready for the team to move in by 2016. Over a 35-year period, the EDA estimates the project will have a net benefit of $76.6 million to the state.
The 76ers are currently the only team in the National Basketball Association to not have its own practice facility, instead having to practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
EDA President Tim Lizura said Tuesday that the team was considering building its practice facility in the Philadelphia Navy Yard until the passage and signage of the Economic Opportunity Act last year.
Team CEO Scott O’Neil, who holds the same position with the New Jersey Devils, said that Camden entered the picture about four or five months ago and has since demonstrated to him that it is a “city on the rise.”
O’Neil said that Camden stood out because through the offered tax credits, the team will be able to build a much larger facility that will allow it to tie in “business and basketball” together.
Camden Mayor Dana Redd added that when she first found out that the 76ers were considering the waterfront, her initial reaction was that the city needed to “lure them to Camden.”
“I am elated for my city,” Redd said.
Redd also noted the Economic Opportunity Act was a driving force behind the move and said she believes the project still only represents the “tip of the iceberg” for what’s in store for the city.
After reports of the project surfaced last month, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told the Philadelphia Inquirer that fans would be “insulted” at the thought of the team moving any part of its operation to New Jersey, which he claimed was “certainly throwing, or trying to throw, a whole bunch of cash in their face.”
Gordon MacInnes, president of liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, said that between what he deems to be an “incredibly low” net benefit and the notion that team “hardly needs a tax break to build a facility,” this deal is “among the worst we’ve seen under the Economic Opportunity Act.”
“If New Jersey officials are serious about growing the economy, they need to dial back the reliance on unneeded tax subsidies and do more of the kind of old-fashioned investment — in our schools, communities and public issues — that made the state an economic powerhouse to begin with,” MacInnes said.
The 76ers are not alone in eyeing South Jersey for a home base for their operations. The National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers, with which the 76ers share the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, have long practiced at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.
Among other notable projects approved for incentives include a 10-year, $22.1 million Grow New Jersey award for outdoor lighting equipment manufacturer and designer Princeton Tectonics to relocate its Bordentown assembly facility to Pennsauken over another location in Queensbury, N.Y.
New York-based high-end designer apparel rental agency Rent the Runway was also approved for a 10-year, $14.5 million Grow New Jersey award seeking to entice the company to choose a site in Secaucus over Jessup, Pa., for a planned distribution center.
Baked by Melissa, a North Bergen-based bite-size cupcake manufacturer, was approved for a 10-year, $12.9 million Grow New Jersey award to allow the company to expand its facility and not seek out an alternative location in the Bronx.
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