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Developers Break Ground On $145M, 425-Unit Replacement For Camden's Oldest Public Housing Project

Another Philly-area public housing project from the mid-20th century is being replaced by a private sector-led development.

Federal, state and local officials join representatives from community organizations and developer The Michaels Organization at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Cramer Hill Family public housing development in Camden, New Jersey, on Feb. 25, 2022.

The Michaels Organization is the developer leading the replacement of Ablett Village, the 306-unit property that was the oldest public housing project in Camden, New Jersey, the first phase of which broke ground Friday, the company announced. Federal, state and local officials joined Michaels to celebrate starting the 75-unit first phase of what is projected to be a $145M, 425-unit project split across several sites.

That first phase, named Cramer Hill Family, will consist of 75 affordable townhomes spread across three sites within the Cramer Hill neighborhood and is expected to be completed by the end of next year. The second of four phases, a 55-unit age-restricted development, is set to break ground in September. Like part of Cramer Hill Family, the second phase will be built on a different site than the original Ablett Village, which was originally built in 1943.

As with virtually every affordable housing development in the U.S. these days, public or private, the Ablett Village replacement relies on an amalgam of financing sources. The capital stack includes, per Michaels:

The city of Camden, represented at the event by Mayor Victor Carstarphen, and the Housing Authority for the city of Camden selected Michaels to lead the replacement of Ablett Village, the eighth such project that the city has awarded to the locally based company, the announcement read. 

A rendering of the multifamily portion of Cramer Hill Family, the first phase of The Michaels Organization's redevelopment of the Ablett Village public housing project in Camden, New Jersey.

On the original Ablett Village site, the plan for all four phases calls for a health clinic jointly operated by Virtua Health and the Rutgers-Camden School of Nursing, office space set aside for community organizations, a playground, a community garden for growing produce, and a raft of infrastructure improvements meant to increase access and mobility from the site.

Among the planned improvements are new streets, pedestrian connections to the street grids and better access to mass transit such as the bus system. Also expected is improved connection to the shore of the Delaware River, located just a handful of blocks away from the Ablett Village site in the East Camden neighborhood of Cramer Hill.

Joining Carstarphen and Michaels Vice President Nick Cangelosi in speaking at the groundbreaking were U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (brother of South Jersey power broker George Norcross), state Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey Alicka Ampry-Samuel, HACC Chair Deborah Person-Polk, NJHMA Managing Director of Multifamily Programs Tanya Hudson-Murray and Camden County Commissioner Al Dyer.

“This groundbreaking will mark a life-changing investment into a community that I was born and bred in and one that has given me and my family so much,” Dyer said in a statement released with the announcement. “Ablett Village is near and dear to my heart and was a place I called home for several years as a kid. That said, I’m excited to see this transformation take place as we move forward with generational change in East Camden.”