Judge: Rowan must pay $1.6 million more for Camden building it acquired in '09

Rowan University must pay an additional $1.65 million for a former Camden bank building it acquired in 2009 through eminent domain, a judge has ruled.

A Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that the former First Camden National Bank & Trust Co. building at Cooper Street and Broadway is worth $4.45 million.

Rowan initially offered $2.80 million to purchase the downtown building in fall 2008. When the owner declined the bid, the university increased its offer to $3.14 million. Quercus Alba L.L.C. of New York City, which purchased the building and an adjoining three-story annex in November 2003 for $2.80 million, took the case to court.

Rowan acquired the building through eminent domain in February 2009, before a price was settled on.

The entire building and annex were usable and worth $4.58 million, argued Timothy P. Duggan, chair of Stark & Stark's Bankruptcy & Creditor's Rights Group. Rowan's lower appraised value was based on the claim that more than 30 percent of the building was not able to be rented, Duggan said.

Under New Jersey law, universities can obtain property through eminent domain over the objection of the owner. Rowan officials have not decided whether to appeal the ruling, according to university spokesman Joe Cardona.

The appeal would be for the price, not ownership of the building, Cardona said.

"We have access already," he said. "We've already been renovating it."

Rowan plans to turn the building into administrative and faculty offices and classrooms.

The school hopes to expand its student body in Camden to 1,500 from the current 500. Rowan currently leases a building on the corner of Broadway and Cooper, kitty-corner from the former bank.

 


Contact staff writer Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917 or cvargas@phillynews.com.