A rendering of One Water Street in Camden, the future headquarters of American Water. — Courtesy: Robert A.M. Stern Architects
By Joshua Burd
With more than a year of due diligence, entitlements and land assemblage in the books, Liberty Property Trust is set to break ground on the first piece of a $1 billion, mixed-use project to transform Camden’s waterfront.
The Philadelphia-based developer announced this week that it will start work on a five-story, 222,376-square-foot office building that will become the corporate headquarters of American Water. The property, slated for completion in late 2018, will be known as One Water Street and will be developed alongside new supporting infrastructure and an 806-car parking garage.
“Today marks the beginning of what will become an energetic high performance community, anchored by world-class office buildings and a spacious waterfront park easily accessed by walking, biking, driving and public transportation,” said John Gattuso, Liberty Property Trust’s regional director and senior vice president, urban region. He added that the development “will build upon and greatly contribute to the revitalization efforts already underway in Camden. As we shift into the development of The Camden Waterfront, our focus shifts too, from that of a vision to that of a reality, and that is a very exciting thing.”
The company said this week that it had completed the assemblage of land and development rights for the master-planned project known as The Camden Waterfront. The effort has come as part of 15 months of due diligence, during which Liberty gained approvals and struck agreements with a half-dozen government agencies and authorities.
Designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, which also serves as the waterfront project’s master planner, One Water Street will give way to a massive development pipeline that includes 1.45 million square feet of build-to-suit projects office projects. The plan also calls for a proposed 180-room Hilton Garden Inn to be developed by Ensemble Real Estate Solutions, plus a 188-unit residential component, for which an agreement is pending with The Michaels Organization.
In its announcement, Liberty noted that high-profile local business leaders are expected to be primary investors in the hotel and residential developments. They include Connor Strong & Buckelew Executive Chairman George E. Norcross III, Mike Levitt and John O’Donnell of The Michaels Organization and Sidney, Jeff and Ike Brown of NFI.
Liberty and city officials said they hope to lure companies to the Camden waterfront through the Grow New Jersey tax credit program, which played a role in attracting American Water. The publicly traded utility, which has been awarded a 10-year, $164 million tax credit in connection with the move, is planning to consolidate from its existing headquarters in Voorhees and other suburban locations.
“American Water has been providing water service to Camden for years through New Jersey American Water in Cramer Hill and through our market based business which operates the water systems for the city,” said American Water President and CEO Susan Story. “While we have been strongly engaged in the city, we are looking forward to being even more integrated in the community as we move our national corporate headquarters to the waterfront.”
The real estate investment trust announced other due diligence milestones, including an agreement with Dranoff Properties in connection with the removal of an impeding view easement restriction. The company also has finalized a community investment agreement with the city that will set a framework for hiring practices planning components that will benefit Camden residents.
“Liberty Property Trust has been a great partner throughout this process by ensuring that Camden residents have an opportunity for employment and local sourcing,” Mayor Dana L. Redd said. “Camden’s resurgence has been catapulted by projects such as this one, our focus on enhancing public safety and our efforts to improve educational outcomes for our youth.”