Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Camden's vacant buildings add up

CAMDEN FLOW Camden has more than 3,000 vacant buildings, according to a study conducted by CamConnect, a nonprofit group that has embarked on a mission to map the city.

Volunteers for the group collected data on foot from each of the city's 31,124 properties and then compared the findings with existing data from the city, post office, and tax assessors.

The survey found 3,334 vacant buildings in the city.

If you include half of the properties marked "unsure" as "vacant" the total estimate increases to 3,417 vacant buildings.

That means 14.9 percent of Camden's 22,905 buildings are vacant, according to the data. Factor in the city's 8,142 empty lots and CamConnect comes up with an astounding figure: 37 percent of all Camden parcels are vacant.

Josh Wheeling, program manager for CamConnect, said the survey involved 80 volunteers who began work at the start of 2012. "It took a long time, a lot of work, and a lot of different people helping," Wheeling said.

And what is a vacant building? One with "basically no one legally occupying" it, Wheeling said, "so that doesn't include squatters."

"We were just looking from outside the buildings obviously, but did compare with a do-not-deliver list, and look at electric info and accounts from people who have been inside vacant houses," he added.

In the spring, the city secured an $8 million bond to focus on demolition of abandoned buildings. Work has started but a city official did not respond to an immediate request for an update on that progress.

CamConnect also has an interactive parcel map for properties in Camden along with tax assessments and in some cases property owners. Go to www.camconnect.org.

yJulia Terruso, www.inquirer.com/camdenflow

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