In 2007, the Cramer Hill Community Development Corporation (CHCDC) secured funding from the Wachovia Regional Foundation and the NJ Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program to complete a resident-driven plan for Cramer Hill. The purpose of the plan was to serve as a unified voice for local residents, business owners, institutions, students, community leaders, political representatives and others. The key goals of the plan were to: create a resident-driven blueprint for the community, create a social service network tailored to Cramer Hill, connect to the waterfront, revitalize River Avenue, improve local parks and schools, create a mixed-income community, and promote Cramer Hill as a cleaner and safer community for families.
As CHCDC prepared to begin this work, CFDA saw an opportunity to coordinate a waterfront park planning process on a parallel track with the neighborhood plan, replicating the model it had used in North Camden. With support from the William Penn Foundation, CFDA hired a consultant to develop a concept plan for a linear waterfront park that would extend along the length of the Cooper River and Delaware Back Channel in Cramer Hill. The objectives of the plan included maximizing waterfront access with the creation of a contiguous multi-use greenway trail with regional linkages, extension of key neighborhood streets to the river, programming of passive and active recreational facilities as well as identifying areas for waterfront development. CHCDC and CFDA worked closely to re-engage residents, generating a unified waterfront and core neighborhood plan which presents an exciting long-term vision for tomorrow and clear, implementable steps to achieve the vision.
Recognizing the host of environmental concerns that exist along the Cramer Hill waterfront, including a pair of nesting bald eagles, wetlands, and environmental contamination, and to insure that the Waterfront Park Plan was realistic and consistent with state and federal environmental regulations, CFDA and CHCDC worked closely with NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) during the planning process. CFDA initiated conversations with NJDEP at the outset of the process and secured commissioner level commitment to participating in the process in order to develop a plan for the waterfront that balances sensitive habitats with the need for environmental clean up, public waterfront access and new development.
After a seven-month participatory process involving 600 residents, the Waterfront Park Plan was publicly unveiled on May 11, 2009 as an element of the Cramer Hill NOW! Neighborhood Plan. The Plan was well-received and considered to be reflective of the community’s priorities and needs.
The waterfront park master plan represents a long-range community-driven vision for the revitalization of Cramer Hill’s waterfront. This vision is built on the primary community goal of a waterfront that is accessible to all residents and visitors alike while incorporating a range of new recreational opportunities and balancing mixed-use development with the preservation and enhancement of an incredibly unique Delaware River Back Channel environment. Currently, there is no public access to any part of the Cramer Hill waterfront. The stunning views across the still back channel waters, over the trees of Petty’s Island and the scenic Delaware River to the skyline of Philadelphia are hidden by landfill, industrial uses and fences. But this plan marks a growing realization of the untapped potential of the Cramer Hill waterfront.