After more than five frustrating years of trying to redevelop the old Pennsauken Mart site, Camden County officials got word yesterday that they would receive $16.5 million for the project from the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
The news came as officials prepared to announce a new developer for the site and demolition work at the site neared completion.
The authority approved the money as part of a $20 million grant that includes $3.5 million for a state-of-the-art regional fire-training academy at the county campus of offices and facilities known as Lakeland in Gloucester Township.
Funding for the mart site, at the juncture of Routes 73, 90 and 130, was reduced from $24 million to $16.5 million when the county scaled back its plans, officials said.
A 70-acre civic and conference center was originally proposed. A new plan for 35 acres is being negotiated with a developer and is likely to include housing, commercial space, and possibly a hotel, along with other amenities.
Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said the county expected to announce an agreement with Scarborough Properties of Gibbsboro "in the very near future" to develop the site.
"We've been negotiating solely with Scarborough over the past few months," he said.
Jeffrey Swartz, executive director of the Camden County Improvement Authority, which owns the mart site, said the authority's approval was "a step forward."
"This project is not only important to Pennsauken but also to Camden County," he said. "This development will fill a niche that is not available for residents who currently want to enjoy living in Pennsauken. The township and county have embraced it, and it will be good for South Jersey as a whole."
Camden County also expects to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Tim Schaeffer Development Corp. of Berlin to redevelop a vacant 30-acre shopping center on the White Horse Pike in Clementon, Cappelli said yesterday.
That agreement is likely to be approved by the board of the Camden County Improvement Authority in the next 30 days. That would begin a 60-day negotiation period with the goal of naming Schaeffer master developer.
"We're looking at 190 [housing] units for people 55 and over," he said. "The frontage on the White Horse Pike also offers commercial opportunities."
In Pennsauken, the razing of the former mart buildings should be completed in 30 to 60 days, according to Cappelli. The authority money will pay for the $13.25 million purchase of the site and demolition work.
"[The authority] provided an adequate level of funding to develop an eyesore into a beautiful gateway to Camden County," Cappelli said. "We are eliminating blight, both in Pennsauken and Clementon."