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Fate of Camden’s historic Sears Building in question again

June 29, 2009

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday that the Campbell’s Soup Company has again announced their desire

Camden's Sears Roebuck and Co. building is ripe with adaptive use potential. Photo courtesy of Robert Owens from Flickr.

Camden's Sears Roebuck and Co. building is ripe with adaptive use potential. Photo courtesy of Robert Owens from Flickr.

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.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Cavalier92.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Cavalier92.

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.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 3:49 pm

    “Limited financial incentives to promote investment in historic commercial properties discourages private owners and developers from undertaking preservation projects, resulting in demolition or neglect of historic buildings, which in turn reduces the probability of new businesses entering the community and entirely eliminates the posibility of new jobs” . . .

    We Believe It’s Time For A Change

    • Skip B. permalink
      April 1, 2010 8:16 pm

      Destroying this landmark building would be a total disaster. This building is of the essense of a magnificent era. This beautiful structure was built to stand for hundreds of years.
      The idea of saving it and the income for people, the revenue it could
      provide for Camden would truly help the city.

  2. January 10, 2010 4:51 pm

    Indeed. The Governor, Treasurer and EDA director who have promoted demolition of Sears-Camden for a parking lot (!) have consistently opposed enactment of a job-creating, tax revenue-generating, historic building-saving State Historic Rehab Tax Credit. 30 states have ’em. And NJ is losing out on hundreds of millions of bucks in real estate investment to the states that offer the incentives. See:

  3. raptureryders permalink
    January 24, 2010 10:14 pm

    As a graduate of Penn State architecture, I find it disheartening that the real world is so reluctant to take advantage of such beautiful and site-specific circumstances. Razing this building would be as tragic as all other missed opportunities in adaptive reuse: find out what the community needs and make it happen.

  4. sean reddan permalink
    April 14, 2010 6:16 pm

    Razing this truly unique building would be a tragedy on the soul of america. At the time of construction the country and Camden were in the midst of the roaring twenties and the world was their oyster. I moved to burlington county 2 years ago and have had the privilege of driving by this fine architectural speciman on many occasions and always marvel at the sheer scale of the building. Just last week i pulled into the back of the building and walked in the back door and out into what was the front showroom. It wasnt long before union people approached me to find out what i was doing. I just explained my fascination and obsession with this place…I HAD TO SEE IT ON THE INSIDE. I was happily on my way after that knowing that no matter what happens to this place i can always say i stepped foot in there.

    • May 15, 2010 8:41 pm

      “I HAD TO SEE IT ON THE INSIDE” . . .and you should see it now!! You are welcome back to take another look. We are improving daily, and the best is yet to come. Stay tuned.


      • Kathy permalink
        February 4, 2012 12:53 pm

        what’s happening with this beautiful building? Can it be viewed inside?

  5. Skip B. permalink
    April 15, 2010 8:54 am

    Mr. Merlino, keep up your good work, the city needs more people like you. Very best of luck. Skip B.

  6. Carl King permalink
    April 23, 2010 11:59 pm

    Kelo v. City of New London – just a few years ago, not exactly a success story for the redevelopment folks – it could happen here as well.

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