Fate of Camden’s historic Sears Building in question again
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday that the Campbell’s Soup Company has again announced their desire
to raze Camden’s 1927 Sears Roebuck Building. listed as one of PNJ’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in New Jersey in 2000. The Neoclassical-style building is located in the middle of a site of contemporary office development currently under construction by Campbell’s. Campbell’s reportedly came to a purchase agreement with the building’s current owner, Ilan Zaken, back in March, but the two have as yet been unable to finalize that deal. Zaken and Campbell’s, along with preservationists, the City of Camden, and others have been at odds over the building for several years. Zaken purchased the property in 2007, announcing plans to rehabilitate the space into a mixed-use retail and office building, but since that time, no changes have occurred. Campbell’s originally threatened to leave Camden if not permitted to raze the Sears Building, but later modified their redevelopment plans to wrap around the Sears property. However, when the building was again offered for sale earlier this year, Campbell’s again modified their plans, reincorporating demolition of the Sears Building. Ready to proceed with the project, Campbell’s has now requested that the City of Camden acquire the building via their powers of eminent domain in redevelopment areas.
The Sears Building is one of very few major historic landmarks left standing in the city of Camden. Built in 1927 to “beautify” Admiral Wilson Boulevard, which serves as the main entrance to Camden, its formal architectural style, intended to honor the city, was unique among Sears stores. The store also influenced future retailing practices throughout the country, as it was one of the first built not downtown, but on the periphery of a city, a tactic Sears used to save its customers money. In addition, it was part of Sears’ pioneering efforts at chain store merchandising.