No room for the inn on Cooper Street

The last guest checked out of the Hotel Plaza in 1985, and now the downtown Camden landmark itself may depart.

As my colleague Claudia Vargas reports, the city planning board last week delayed until April 11 a vote authorizing demolition of the privately owned structure at Fifth and Cooper streets.

With neither Rutgers nor Rowan universities interested in rehabbing the place, and with for-profit developers put off by the tiny rooms, narrow corridors and overall decreptitude, the Plaza would appear to be a goner. And the building, rebranded during its lifetime as the Plaza Hotel, Plaza Motor Hotel, Plaza Club and New Plaza, is hardly an architectural masterpiece.

But losing it would be easier to accept if Camden generally and downtown in particular had not already lost so many structures to demolition, leaving behind a handful of institutional buildings marooned in a sea of parking lots. 

Cooper Street is a blessed exception; portions of what was once downtown's premier professional address remain largely intact, even as bits and pieces continue to disappear.

If vintage Cooper Street buildings fall because of bona fide redevelopment, like the Rutgers graduate student tower, that's one thing. Tearing down the Plaza to make way for (ta-dah!) yet another parking lot is unacceptable. 

Meanwhile, for a look at the Plaza in its heydey, visit this page on Phil Cohen's wonderful website,