Elwyn, a Delaware County-based nonprofit that serves people with disabilities, wants to build a 53,000-square-foot administrative building on Camden’s waterfront as part of a region-wide effort to consolidate its real estate footprint.
The agency was approved last week for support from New Jersey’s Grow NJ economic development program that will largely cover the building’s nearly $40 million construction tab if job-creation and other criteria are met, said Elwyn’s vice president for corporate real estate, Jeremy R. Sunkett.
The offices would be built on a vacant waterfront parcel owned by developer Liberty Property Trust beside the 18-story Camden Partners Tower. Elwyn plans to employ about 200 staffers at the site, with 167 coming from the main campus in Middletown Township and the rest from offices in Vineland, N.J.
“Elwyn is exactly the kind of organization that Grow NJ was designed to attract,” the nonprofit’s president and chief executive, Charles McLister, said in a statement. “We have an important mission to serve children and adults with disabilities, and we have a strategic plan that calls for growth in the Delaware Valley.”
With the Grow NJ approval, Elwyn can begin formal negotiations for the development site, Sunkett said. It is evaluating options for having the project built, since Liberty, which holds development rights to the land, has opted to get out of the business of building offices to concentrate on industrial projects, he said.
The move to Camden will allow the group to use more of its main campus in Middletown for care programs rather than administrative functions, although it also intends to substantially shrink its Delaware County landholdings, Sunkett said. Much of its roughly 270-acre main campus property could go up for sale, with preliminary discussions revolving around a scenario in which only about 70 acres are retained, he said.
Elwyn already is seeking buyers for a similar-size property it owns that once served as the campus of the now-defunct Sleighton Farm School, which the nonprofit does not use. Middletown officials have taken steps toward acquiring 80 acres to preserve as open space, the Delaware County Daily Times reported last week.
Less space is needed for programs than in the past because of an industry-wide move away from institutional housing for service recipients in favor of home-based care, Sunkett said.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit is negotiating new leases for some of the functions that will vacate its 2.75-acre West Philadelphia campus at 4040 Market St., which it sold to the University of Pennsylvania’s medical network last year.
Some are likely headed into offices at a converted former telephone exchange building near Filbert and Preston Streets, just north of the recently sold property, while others are bound for what had been the Wakisha Charter School at 900 W. Jefferson St. in North Philadelphia, Sunkett said.
Much of the West Philadelphia property has been used as a base for the teachers and therapists who visit homes and classrooms for Elwyn’s early-childhood special-education programs, Sunkett said. Plans call for them to instead report to as many as six smaller “hubs” that are planned across the region closer to the communities those staffers serve, he said.