Demolition of Camden's Riverfront State Prison in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge formally got under way today with officials saying its removal should spur the revitalization of downtrodden North Camden.

Gov. Corzine called the demolition a "critically important step" in the overall recovery of the city and Mayor Gwendolyn Faison said it would give North Camden residents hope by connecting their neighborhood with the rest of the city.

"The demolition of Riverfront State Prison will allow Camden to draw upon two of its greatest assets – its easy access to Philadelphia and its dramatic waterfront views – to attract new families and businesses to the city," said Mayor-elect Dana L. Redd.

The 24-year-old prison has been long considered an impediment to the development of Camden's waterfront and planners hope to transform the 16-acre site into a mix of commercial and residential buildings.

The demolition work is expected to be completed by the spring.