By Cleve Bryan


CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — A milestone in the revitalization of the City of Camden took place Tuesday. Construction is underway on the city’s first new hotel in more than 50 years.

The hotel is located on the waterfront, in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

New construction has become something of a norm in Camden, where more than $2.5 billion of development has poured into the city over the last few years. But this project is something the city hasn’t seen in half a century.

Local officials helped break ground Tuesday on what will become a 180-room Hilton Garden Inn — the first new hotel to come to Camden in more than 50 years.

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“Well, it just speaks volumes to the commitment and the promise that we’re seeing in the City of Camden,” Camden Mayor Frank Moran said.

Ensemble Real Estate Investment will develop and own the property, while Concord Hospitality will operate the hotel.

While Ensemble says there was reluctance from some investors to build a hotel in Camden, Hilton says the location will fit right in with the hospitals, colleges and businesses and entertainment near the waterfront.

Credit: CBS3

They have little doubt the location will fit in with the other 800-plus properties in their Garden Inn brand.

“There’s going to be a very strong business clientele during the week, and then the sports and leisure activities that have been building up on the waterfront and Philadelphia are really going to be to our advantage,” John Greenleaf, global head of Hilton Garden Inn, said.

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The hotel is also taking advantage of more than $18 million in tax breaks from the soon-to-expire Grow NJ Program. That incentive program and the authority which administers it, is now being investigated and criticized by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy for allegedly benefiting corporations more than residents who need jobs.

The Hilton expects to hire about 75 employees and Moran asks, in the big picture, how do you reject a massive investment in Camden?

“The reality of the Economic Opportunity Act, the proof is in the pudding. You see the tangible development that’s taken place that will create opportunity for Camden,” Moran said.