Now that the last inmates have left Riverfront State Prison, it is becoming easy to imagine the possibilities for that prime real estate on Camden's waterfront.
A fishing pier. A dock for large ships. An ice rink and promenade. A miniature golf course. A water park. An entertainment center. Housing with a spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline.
The possibilities are endless, and offer a glimmer of hope that the gritty North Camden neighborhood held hostage by the prison for more than two decades will be revived.
The last inmates were transferred this week from the prison, and its employees have been reassigned, ending another unfortunate chapter in the city's history. The prison never should have been built there.
State and city officials deserve credit for finally closing the lockup. Now they need to give greater attention to what happens next at the site, and aggressively market it.
Plans are for the prison complex to be demolished and a buyer will be found for the 16-acre property that sits on the Delaware River, just north of the Ben Franklin Bridge.
The prison site is actually one of the best available pieces of land in Camden, and should command top dollar. A call for proposals must focus not only on generating investment dollars, but also serving the best interest of Camden.
City Council must come up with a binding redevelopment plan for the area that involves residents who were largely excluded in producing prior waterfront plans in Camden.
The impoverished city of nearly 79,000 can no longer afford to give away its lush assets on the waterfront, as it did with the prison site.
Built in 1985, the medium-security prison was supposed to create jobs and make nearby residents feel safer. It never lived up to that lofty billing.
In exchange for a financial bailout from the state back then, Camden accepted the prison and became a dumping ground for the region's undesirables.
Within its nine square miles, the city also has a county jail, a trash incinerator, and a sewage treatment plant.
Community leaders have high hopes for the former Riverfront site. The North Camden Neighborhood Plan has a wish list that includes a community center and a wetlands habitat with a boardwalk.
Residents also want to clean up the neighborhood, which has some of the most active drug corners in Camden. They want to replace vacant, abandoned buildings with new construction.