Cherry Hill will be changing the skyline along the Cooper River, bringing loft-type, luxury apartments to North Park Boulevard, as the once-blighted corridor continues to transform into a busy recreational area with parks, running tracks, restaurants, and boating.
Hundreds of renters will be able to enjoy river views as a result of the township planning board's approval this week of the 192-unit complex. On Monday, the developer, First Montgomery Group, unveiled artist renderings for "202 Park" that include urban-style brick buildings, a courtyard with a pool and fire pits, a dog park, and many other amenities akin to city life.
John Cranmer, director of development for First Montgomery, said the "underutilized" location is ideal.
"Having a community that opens into Cooper River Park and still has direct frontage on Route 70 and close proximity to Center City and Camden will also help make 202 Park a tremendous success," Cranmer said. "We look forward to being an excellent addition to the community and a good neighbor."
The Cooper River site is one of three planned developments for Cherry Hill that First Montgomery is constructing in redevelopment zones. Plans will be submitted for a 252-unit complex at Hampton Road and Cuthbert Boulevard, and a 370-unit complex on Woodcrest and Burnt Mill Roads. Cranmer said he could not comment on those projects at this time.
Park 202's architect, Thomas Brennan, said Cherry Hill officials wanted an urban feel rather than a suburban "cookie cutter" development. He designed a brick exterior for the mainly one- and two-bedroom apartments. There will be some larger apartments as well as 29 affordable-housing units. Officials said the development will significantly add to the township's tax base.
It will also change the landscape where existing dilapidated buildings — a former school, a hotel, and a restaurant — have been shuttered. They are a reminder of the riverfront when there was little development. The Lobster Trap, and later the four-story Camden County Boathouse, which opened in 2006, were the main attractions.
The Lobster Trap has since closed. La Scala's Birra has opened. Camden County freeholders spent $10 million to dredge the Cooper River, which has been a top venue for large and prestigious regattas. In July, the U.S. Rowing National Championship will return to South Jersey. Camden County Freeholder Jeffrey Nash, who is involved in the development of Cooper River Park, said Cherry Hill's plans to bring apartments to the area will be a positive change.
While Cherry Hill is developing the blighted area, Nash said, the county continues to improve park amenities. The existing dog park will be improved, the running track will be replaced, and ballparks will be added. For the rowing community, an observation deck will be built as well as buildings at the start and finish lines.
Cherry Hill's plan for housing "really works well" to bring a nice mix to the area, Nash said.
Erin Gill, Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn's chief of staff, said the apartments will be market rate, most of them renting for $1,800 to $2,200. There will also be some more expensive higher-end apartments that resemble townhouses that will rent for about $3,000.
"The draw of that location is the view," Gill said, noting that professionals or homeowners who are downsizing have access to Philadelphia. "It's a very quick and easy commute."
First Montgomery Group has in the past had a contentious relationship with the township. The developer purchased the Woodcrest Country Club for $10.1 million at an auction in 2013. Soon afterward, a fight ensued whether the greens on the golf course would be paved to erect apartments, which Nash said at the time would only happen "over my dead body."
Gill said Cahn intends to protect open space because "once it's gone, it's gone."
"The mayor's philosophy is, let's try to direct developers to properties already developed," Gill said. "We want to preserve those green spaces."
In 2015, Cherry Hill bought development rights to Woodcrest in a deal that gave First Montgomery development rights to construct new housing along Park Boulevard and two other locations that had turned into eyesores. Gill said the Park Boulevard location is a really good "reuse" of the property as the county continues improvement as well, attracting recreational users such as joggers, bikers, and children on the playground.