Dranoff plans to build apartments on Camden's waterfront

Carl Dranoff, the Philadelphia-based developer who transformed Camden's former RCA Victor factory into the city's first luxury apartment building, has plans to build an apartment complex on the waterfront.

The 156-unit building, next to the Campbell's Field baseball stadium, would be part of the massive mixed-use Liberty Property development that has been proposed for the area.

Members of the city's Planning Board approved the plans Thursday night following a presentation from the project's civil engineer and architect, Jerry Roller, of the Philadelphia-based firm JKRP Architects.

Dranoff did not attend the meeting, but earlier in the week previewed the plans to members of the Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association.

The project includes about 148,000 square feet of rental space, with about 5,000 square feet for ground-floor retail, and would be built at the end of Cooper Street at Delaware Avenue. The plans include about 200 parking spaces and about 30 units that would be set aside for affordable housing.

Dranoff's building would include the bulk of the 200 residential units proposed for the waterfront project. Dranoff said the project would begin in January and set summer 2018 as a target move-in date. Architectural plans have not yet been finalized, he said.

In addition to the Victor Lofts building, which opened in 2003, Dranoff has long had plans to turn the 10-story Cooper Street structure formerly known as RCA Building No. 8 into an 86-unit condominium complex called the Radio Lofts. But since the building was gutted more than four years ago, work has stalled.

The Philadelphia-based developer Liberty Property last year announced plans to build an $800 million complex that would include office space, shops, housing, and parks on the waterfront. In addition to the residential units, the proposed project calls for about 1.5 million square feet of commercial space and a 130-room hotel on 26 acres.

Sean Brown, one of the few Camden residents who attended the meeting, asked the board to table the project until a benefits agreement could be finalized that would require that the developer further invest in the community.

"What we have going on in Camden is unusual," he said. "It's unusual for these deals to be made with very little community involvement. . . . It makes no sense to me that any project is approved without seeing how it fits into the city."

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