Sunday, February 14, 2016

After sitting vacant for three decades, Camden's Hotel Plaza to be razed

The Hotel Plaza, a longtime vacant shell of its previous life as bustling hotel on Cooper Street, was approved for demolition.

After sitting vacant for three decades, Camden's Hotel Plaza to be razed

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The Hotel Plaza, a longtime vacant shell of its previous life as bustling hotel on Cooper Street, was approved for demolition.

After many arguments for and against the razing of the historic hotel, the Camden Planning Board voted 3-2 to allow New York- based owners of the hotel, Cooper Plaza Associates, to tear down the Plaza.

"It became clear that the building is so far beyond repair and no one would invest to bring the building back," planning board chairman Rod Sadler said Friday morning. He voted in favor of the demolition.

Those who voted against the demolition, Sadler said, sited historic preservation as their reason. The preservation commission, an advisory group to the Planning Board, voted against demolition in October. Members said they believed that despite decay, the structure could be brought to code.

No date has been set yet for the demolition but Sadler says it could be in the coming weeks. The owners have already set up fencing around the property.

The hotel closed in 1985. The building rises about seven floors at Fifth Street and Cooper. Corrosion has struck much of the signage on the entrance awning and along a corner of the building.

Though the owners had previously suggested having a parking lot in place of the hotel, Sadler said he would like the land to be sold for "higher investment use."

Rutgers-Camden has eyed the site for a future business school but university spokesman Mike Sepanic said there is no money or set plans for a new building.

"We don't have funding for a new building," Sepanic said Thursday. "It's all speculative."

Rutgers had previously balked at purchasing the Hotel Plaza, which is on the south side of Cooper Street, because of the required investment. The owners had said that a dormitory building would be the only feasible use but that it would cost about $21.7 million for a 90 dormitory room project, according to an inspection and report done by S.T. Hudson Engineers.

Urban developer Carl Dranoff also looked at the hotel about a decade ago as a potential redevelopment project, similar to his Victor Lofts.

But he found several issues with the building, including its U-shape and the single occupancy rooms with bathrooms at the end of the hallway, he said in January.

“It did not have the right bones,” Dranoff said, adding that the hotel’s U-shape is “not great shape for adaptive reuse for what I do.”

He suggested that student housing could be a “workable” option for the building or maybe “boutique office space.” But even those options would be a tough sell.

“It was never a ‘wow’ hotel,” Dranoff said.

(Read previous Hotel Plaza demolition story HERE.)

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About this blog

Allison Steele writes about Camden’s schools, government and businesses. Most importantly, she writes about the city’s residents. She is a former crime reporter who covered the Camden and Philadelphia police departments for the Inquirer. A Philly native, she has been with the Inquirer since 2008.

Send comments, tips and story ideas to asteele@philly.com, call 856-779-3876, or reach out on Twitter @AESteele.

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