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EDA approves $244M in incentives for major Camden Waterfront project

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A look at the planned Camden Tower that will house three South Jersey companies, and its place on the city's waterfront.
A look at the planned Camden Tower that will house three South Jersey companies, and its place on the city's waterfront. - ()

The state Economic Development Authority voted Thursday to approve a total of roughly $244 million in incentives for three southern New Jersey companies seeking to construct and move into an 18-story, 375,000-square-foot office tower on Camden’s waterfront.

The EDA approved three separate 10-year Grow New Jersey awards for Marlton-based insurance brokerage Conner Strong & Buckelew, Cherry Hill-based logistics company NFI and Marlton-based real estate firm The Michaels Organization for amounts totaling $86.2 million, $79.3 million and $79.3 million, respectively.

The awards were calculated based on the Camden Investment Alternative, which allows for a project to receive tax credits equal to the amount of capital investment associated with the project.

Thursday’s vote comes nearly a week after the three companies announced in a joint statement that they had each submitted their applications to the EDA for the project, which they estimate will cost approximately $245 million and bring a “minimum” of 869 more jobs to the city.

The building would not only accommodate the three companies, but also include space for an outdoor area overlooking the Delaware River and Philadelphia skyline capable of holding 1,000 people. Without delays, the companies believe the tower could be ready for occupancy by August 2019.

The project would be yet another part of a major transformation underway along the city’s waterfront. In December, Liberty Property Trust announced it was immediately beginning construction on the first phase of its planned $1 billion mixed-use complex on the waterfront, commencing with a five-story, 222,376-square-foot office building that will ultimately house the headquarters for Voorhees-based American Water Works Co. Inc. when completed later next year.

At the time of the public unveiling of Liberty’s plans in 2015, NFI, The Michaels Organization and Conner Strong & Buckelew, the latter of which is led by South Jersey power broker George Norcross III, announced they were also eyeing a move to the waterfront.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Norcross said in a recent statement that he is looking forward “to not just being a cheerleader for Camden, but being a corporate resident.”

The three companies also noted last week that they may invest up to an additional $100 million more into the new apartments and hotel that are also slated to be a part of the larger waterfront development.

“We are incredibly excited about the future of Camden and about the future of our organization being headquartered there,” Michaels Organization President John O’Donnell said last week. “This move will enable us to offer our growing workforce a world-class, state-of-the-art headquarters location in a city that is once again poised for greatness.”

NFI CEO Sid Brown added in that same statement that the focus of the planned headquarters would “be on the employee experience.”

 “The building and surroundings will offer our employees the first-class office space and amenities they deserve, making NFI an even more appealing and exciting place to work.”

Thursday’s awards are nothing new to the Camden Waterfront, an area which has drawn big-ticket incentives in recent years under the Economic Opportunity Act for companies such as the Philadelphia 76ers, EMR Eastern and Lockheed Martin.

Combined, the awards for the three companies Thursday still fall short of the 10-year, $260 million Grow New Jersey award offered in 2014 to Holtec International, an energy industry equipment manufacturer and supplier formerly based in Marlton. Holtec recently began the transition to its new Camden office earlier this year.

Other awards approved Thursday include:

Company: DeWalt Brewing Co.
Service: Brewery
Location: Atlantic City
Award: 10-year, $1.08 million Grow NJ
Benefit: $109,915 over 30 years
Notable: Would create 15 full-time jobs

Company: Maestro Technologies
Service: Technology and data management firm
Location: Trenton
Award: 10-year, $17.3 million Grow NJ
Benefit: $48.5 million over 30 years
Notable: Would create 143 full-time jobs, retain 35 full-time jobs

Company: Wakefern Food Corp.
Service: Grocer and non-food warehouser 
Location: Perth Amboy
Award: 10-year, $39.2 million Grow NJ
Benefit: $52.5 million over 20 years
Notable: Would create 390 full-time jobs, retain 172 full-time jobs

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