Plans to build a ShopRite supermarket on the Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden, a project that officials had said would create permanent jobs and provide improved access to fresh, affordable food, have fallen apart, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Instead, Actega North America Inc., a Delran-based company that makes coatings and sealants, on Tuesday was approved to receive $40 million in state tax incentives if it decides to build a 130,000-square-foot headquarters on the site. The project would create 21 jobs, according to the company's application, and move 79 existing positions to the city.
Plans for the ShopRite, which would have been the city's second full-service supermarket, were announced in March 2013 by city officials, who said it would be the anchor tenant of a shopping center.
"I am so proud and happy to share this wonderful news today with our residents because this is the type of development project they have been asking for," Mayor Dana L. Redd said then. "One that will create jobs and opportunities for them."
At the time, there were no full-service supermarkets in Camden. A PriceRite has since opened in the city's Fairview neighborhood.
No explanation has been provided for why the ShopRite project collapsed. Representatives of the Goldenberg Group, the developer of the site, would not comment on site plans Tuesday.
"The Goldenberg Group has been actively working to develop the Admiral Wilson site in Camden to create additional investment and bring new jobs to the region," said Jeremy Fogel, executive vice president and director of development. "The city has seen enormous success over the last few years, and we hope to be able to build upon those accomplishments with our project."
A spokeswoman for ShopRite's parent company said she could not provide an update on the project Tuesday.
The state Economic Development Authority, which approved the tax credits for Actega at its meeting Tuesday, also approved about $18 million in tax incentives for DuBell Lumber, a Medford-based company that may consolidate operations in Camden. The move would bring 92 jobs to the city and create 30, according to the application.
The companies are the latest to receive approvals for millions in tax credits through the EDA's Grow New Jersey program, which rewards employers that invest in struggling cities as part of the 2013 Economic Opportunity Act. U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, a South Jersey Democrat, championed the law as a state senator, saying the incentives would boost the impoverished city's economy.
Critics say the program simply relocates existing jobs at a high cost to taxpayers. Many of the corporations moving in, such as Subaru of America, Holtec, and Lockheed Martin, are expected to offer few jobs for Camden residents, and will be able to redeem tax credits worth millions of dollars in exchange for moving a few miles.
When plans for the 75,000-square-foot ShopRite were announced, developer Ken Goldenberg said he expected the site to be completed in 2015. Ravitz Family Markets, which opened the Camden PriceRite store in 2014, planned to operate the ShopRite. But the site sat vacant, and late last year, a spokeswoman for ShopRite's parent company declined to offer an updated timeline.
Sean Brown, who lives near the PriceRite with his family, said the proposed ShopRite location would have been difficult for people without cars to reach using public transportation. He also said many East Camden residents already shop at Cousin's Supermarket, just a half-mile from the proposed ShopRite site. While smaller than a full-service supermarket, Cousin's offerings include fresh meat and produce.
"That said, it is always disappointing to see something not come through after city leaders say it's happening," Brown said.