Cooper summer concert series begin; park named after neighborhood activist

Just in time for the first day of summer, the Cooper Foundation is launching its annual “Summer in the City” concert series Thursday.

The concert, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Cooper Commons Park at 6th and Washington Streets, is free to the public. The Cooper Foundation, the charitable arm of Cooper University Hospital, will host three other evening concerts this summer at the park: June 27, July 18 and July 25.

Just before the concert starts this Thursday, a ceremony will be held to rename the park after Sheila L. Roberts, president of the Cooper Lanning Civic Association and a big advocate for the controversial KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy renaissance school plan.

The charter-like school —— created through a partnership between the Cooper Foundation; KIPP, one of the largest charter school networks in the country; and the Norcross Foundation, established by the family of Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden) and his brother, George E. Norcross III, chairman of Cooper University Hospital, a Democratic leader, and a managing partner of the company that owns The Inquirer —— is scheduled to open in the fall 2014 in the space that had long been reserved for a new Lanning Square School.

While some in the neighborhood fought the renaissance school plan, citing the $10 million that had already been spent on designing the traditional public school and eminent domain, Roberts said the KIPP school would be the fastest route to get Lanning Square children a neighborhood school.

The naming of the 6th & Washington Streets park Thursday is the second just naming of a Cooper Plaza this month.

The 7th Street park on the corner of Benson Street, Outside the Cooper University Hospital Emergency Department, was named the Joan S. Davis Park in recognition of “Davis’ service to the City of Camden as a civic and community leader.”