Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center Receives 2014 Smart Growth Award

Posted on: June 10th, 2014 by KitchenAdmin No Comments


06.10.2014 — The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Camden, New Jersey was recently honored by New Jersey Future with a 2014 Smart Growth Award at the organization’s annual celebration held on June 5, 2014 at the Newark Club’s Metropolitan Room in Newark, New Jersey. Designed by Kitchen & Associates of Collingswood, New Jersey, the project aims to provide the Camden community with a state-of-the-art facility, offering local residents a variety of community-oriented services, including recreational, social, religious and cultural amenities within its program. The center is expected to open in October 2014.

Upon its completion, the center will open its doors to a city that is perhaps best known for its struggles with violent crime and urban decay. Approximately 45% of families in Camden live below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate as of August 2013 was 16.6%, nearly double the national average. Some of the problems of concentrated neighborhood poverty often include high unemployment rates, rampant crime, health disparities, inadequate early care and education, struggling schools, and disinvestment. Often spanning generations, poverty such as Camden’s can be a difficult, if not impossible hurdle to overcome. But the creation of safe gathering places within the residential fabric for learning, exercising, worship, and community-building, can provide ‘a beacon of hope and an agent of change,’ reflecting both the heart and the spirit of the Kroc mission statement.

In January 2004, The Salvation Army USA announced that it would be receiving nearly $1.6 billion from the estate of Mrs. Joan Kroc, (whose husband founded McDonald’s), to establish community centers similar to the one Mrs. Kroc established in San Diego. Following a competitive, nationwide proposal process, The Salvation Army regional office in the City of Camden received $59 million of funding. By forging new relationships in the community and partnering with corporate sponsors and political leaders, the Salvation Army was able to secure the additional $31 million to fully fund the project.

Camden officials and The Salvation Army representatives chose to locate the community center on a portion of the former Harrison Avenue Landfill site. The 100-acre landfill was owned and operated by the City of Camden from 1952 to 1971. The landfill is now closed, and the land is owned by the Camden Redevelopment Authority (CRA). It is located on the northwest corner of Harrison Avenue and East State Street in the Cramer Hill neighborhood within the Cramer Hill Brownfield Development Area. The selection of this site for the Kroc center made by local stakeholders, city officials and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) was seen as an ideal opportunity to expedite the redevelopment of brownfield sites that border a 2-mile stretch of the Delaware River.


The reclamation of the 24-acre portion of the landfill for the Kroc Center was realized after several phases of remediation. In September 2008, the NJDEP completed an initial $4.1 million publicly-funded cleanup phase which removed approximately 14,000 tons of industrial waste material. Subsequently 221,000 cubic yards of clean infill soil (from a previous Delaware River channel dredging project) was brought to the site from the Palmyra Nature Cove. It was stockpiled on the site, ready to be located under the building’s foundations and to cap the landscaped areas. From December 2011 until February 2013, the remediation work was accomplished and the Palmyra material was relocated once more into its final location. Since then, most of the activity at the site has been construction-related; the remaining site work – surface landscaping and final top cover – will be completed before the Kroc Center opens October 2014.

The Center itself will be 120,000 square feet, nearly 3 football fields in length, and provide recreational, health, educational, cultural, family and spiritual programming for area residents. It will also serve as the hub for Salvation Army services in the Tri-County region. The amenity-laden facility includes both indoor and outdoor recreational spaces. Outdoor facilities include basketball courts, a regulation little league baseball field with lighting for night games, a softball field, and a soccer/lacrosse/field hockey pitch, meandering walking paths, a playground, and a concessions building with restrooms. There is onsite parking for 250 cars as well as bus parking.


The indoor program is divided into three areas meant to serve the Mind, Body and Spirit. The Fitness space includes an 11,000 square foot gymnasium with spectator seating, an aquatic center with 8-lane competition pool and an indoor water park, an exercise center with dance studios, a thirty foot rock climbing wall, and comprehensive locker room spaces with showers and dressing rooms.  There are social gathering spaces for teens and youths, a senior center, drop-in babysitting, a 200-seat performing arts theater, and a 250-seat chapel. Available social services will include a family life and personal development center, classrooms, art room, computer lab, music room, library learning center, a commercial kitchen, an early childhood education center serving 90 preschool children, and a health clinic run by Cooper Hospital. All of these separate spaces connect via an 8,000 SF indoor ‘Town Plaza’ gathering space and café, situated beneath a spectacular glass skylight.




Located Near Existing Development and Infrastructure

Camden officials and The Salvation Army representatives chose to locate the community center on a portion of the former Harrison Avenue Landfill site at the confluence of the Delaware and Cooper rivers in the Cramer Hill section of the city. This site was chosen in particular because it was large enough to accommodate the project, was owned by the Camden Redevelopment Authority, and was/is located along bus routes and a proposed rail station allowing for easy access. The location is also in close proximity to the 12,000 children who reside in Cramer Hill and North Camden.


Creation and Enhancement of Connections to Existing Developments or Plans

As construction moves forward rapidly for the completion of the Kroc Center, remediation and reuse of the balance of the landfill site became a priority at neighborhood, city and state levels. In the fall of 2009, the Cooper’s Ferry Development Association (CFDA) and the Cramer Hill Community Development Corporation (CHCDC) initiated a schematic design process for the remaining 86-acre section of the Harrison Avenue Landfill, in partnership with a variety of agencies including the Camden Redevelopment Authority (CRA), Salvation Army, and other Cramer Hill stakeholders. The design for the Cramer Hill Waterfront Park provides a vision for a new park and multi-use greenway trail that will extend along the length of the Cooper River and Delaware River Back Channel within Cramer Hill. The major investment of the Kroc Center spawned significant initiatives in the neighborhood and primed Cramer Hill for transformation, capitalizing on its natural assets and scenic location for significant economic and recreational development. The various neighborhood plans were developed in close coordination with the Kroc Center development in mind to create a unified vision for the community’s future.

Creation and Enhancement of a Vibrant Mix of Uses

Though the Kroc Center has no residential component, neighboring residences and community members are paramount to its success. A central purpose of the Kroc Center and the Mission of The Salvation Army is to create vibrant activity within the community. Major Paul Cain Kroc Center Administrator has stated, “the Kroc Center project is saving the land and saving lives.” The Center will provide recreational, health, educational, cultural, family and spiritual programming for area residents. It will also be the hub for Salvation Army Citadel services in the tri-county region. It will serve as many as 360,000 members and visitors per year and create approximately 160 jobs.


Protection and Enhancement of Open Space, Farmland, Parks and Critical Environmental Areas

By initiating the remediation of the Harrison Avenue Landfill, the development of the Kroc Center has made great progress toward the eventual goal of reclaiming and utilizing all 100 acres of this vital, waterfront land. Additionally, the built project will include open spaces with ball fields, walking paths and connections to the future waterfront nature trails. Diverting stormwater runoff to existing wetlands adjacent to the project site will enhance them by keeping them charged. A 300-foot buffer zone adjacent to the river is being kept in tact for Bald Eagle foraging.


Increase the Range of Housing Available Options

Though the Kroc Center does not directly increase the housing options, the redevelopment of the landfill into a vibrant community center will encourage infill development in the adjacent community. Excitement generated by the promise and potential of the new community center has also been a catalyst for the creation of new development plans for the Cramer Hill neighborhood that will contribute to the planning of new housing.


Creation and Enhancement of Transportation Choices

NJ-Transit plans to redirect transit bus lines to include multiple stops at the Kroc Center on various bus routes, and the project has provided for a Bus layover lane to accommodate this increased activity. The Kroc bus line will also connect to the Riverline Light Rail station at 36th street, enabling those in the surrounding neighborhood to have more direct access to downtown Camden which could potentially increase employment and educational opportunities.

Through Design Foster and Encourage Walkability, Activities & Personal Interaction at the Street Level

Careful consideration was given to the walkability of surrounding housing and how to best blend access to the Kroc Center seamlessly into the adjacent neighborhood. Crosswalks are being created across Harrison Ave, and about 2,000 feet of pathways on the campus will provide for and encourage safe walking to and around the Kroc Center.


Improve Resiliency to Natural Hazards

The Kroc Center is only 300 feet away from the Delaware River. Because of this proximity to the water, the entire 24-acres of the Kroc Site was raised 6’ above the flood plane to reduce the risk of flooding.  The building is designed and engineered with onsite, backup power generation to operate the Kroc facility as an emergency shelter when needed to provide housing, food, and bathing facilities for the community.


Respect Community Character, Design and Historic Features

The Kroc Center has been designed to serve as an anchor for revitalization of the Cramer Hill community, a neighborhood of Camden proud for its village atmosphere and a strong sense of community. By reclaiming a long abandoned but critical vacant property, the Kroc Center will not only provide a key destination for that community but will enhance the northern edge of the neighborhood and reconnect it to its most unique asset, the waterfront. The area offers striking views of the Philadelphia skyline and of Petty’s Island. From an architectural standpoint, the project has, despite its scale, been designed to mimic the adjacent residential streetscape with one and two story structures, setbacks  and a wide variety of facade materials including colors and textures.


Utilization of Green or Regenerative Design Techniques and Materials

While The Salvation Army is not proceeding with a LEED application, the project has been designed with abundant sustainability elements. Had certification been pursued, a LEED gold rating could have been achieved. Sustainable features include brownfield redevelopment, aquifer recharging with constructed wetlands and bio-swales, regionally available construction materials, recycled content in building materials, dark sky compliant exterior lighting, Energy Star lighting, day lighting of internal spaces, white roofing to reduce a heat island effect, high-efficiency pool filtration systems that reduce annual water, energy, and filtration chemical consumption, Energy Recover HVAC systems, low VOC materials, waste steam separation, and recycling.


Innovations Stemming from this Project

The $4 million in Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund (HDSRF) grant money from NJDEP and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) supported an innovative approach to landfill remediation that removed the municipal solid waste (MSW) from the area of the Kroc Corps Community Center building footprint and allowed for its redistribution under the protective geotextile cap of the surrounding landscaped areas of the Kroc campus. Building innovations are particular noticeable with regard to the holistic interior space designs and utilization of day lighting throughout. The center’s design is both sustainable and economical; the pool space utilizes cutting-edge design and products rarely used in such a setting that will allow for longevity and low-maintenance through minimal water filtration and chemical use.



It is an exciting time for the City of Camden and the coming Kroc Corps Community Center. The $90 million project nears 80% stage of construction with a dedicated group of individuals, private companies, federal and state agencies, and local civic groups and politicians rallying behind the effort. The development has been recognized as the pivotal opportunity for this region to create possibilities for a long-underserved community.


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