Whenever Jacqueline Buhn talks to a company about moving to Camden, their typical response is this: "Camden?! No way." Then, she mentions the New Jersey state tax credits that essentially award companies with free rent for 10 years for moving to the city. "Then they say, 'Wait—how much money?" says Buhn, the principal and CEO of Athenian Razak, a Philadelphia-based real estate company that's behind the renovation of Camden's historic Ruby Match Factory at 300 North Delaware Ave.
That state tax credit is what has lured companies like Subaru, Cooper Health System, and the 76ers to relocate to Camden in recent years. In 2014, for example, the 76ers received $82 million in tax credits to build a practice facility on the Camden waterfront, a project that Athenian Razak is also undertaking. To receive the incentives, a company must create or move 250 employees to Camden and remain in the city for at least 10 years.
Buhn says they're still in the process of finding tenants to lease the factory-turned-office space, which was originally constructed between 1891 and 1903. By 1906 it was turned into a Campbell's Soup warehouse. Although renovations were expected to start by the end of this year, Buhn says that's been pushed back to next year. "Timing is really dependent on what tenants want to do and want to commit to," she says, adding that the construction phase may take about 10 months. "Once we secure final interest from tenants, that's when the renovation will start to fly."
So what's in the works for the reno? A lot. The roof and windows will be replaced, and two new floor levels will be added to create a 71,520-square-foot office space. "That will increase floorspace. It will be this magnificent open plan office space where you can see from level to level," says Buhn. "It's really attractive for collaborative use."
An "arts cafe" is planned for the northeast side of the building, which will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and potentially include an outdoor eating space in the back of the building. Buhn says while they won't make any official commitments until office tenants are in place, a number of Philly-based eateries have expressed interest in opening locations there.
Buhn would not disclose the projected cost of the project, but as of July 2015 the estimated cost was $20 million.