By Greg Argos


CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Everyone’s familiar with the saying: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. For some, their first impression of Camden is graffiti, mountains of junk from illegal dumping and vacant lots. Now city leaders want to give Camden a second chance because change is coming.

From small projects — like covering up graffiti — to large plans like building a brand new waterfront hotel, Camden is undergoing a transformation.

“There is a lot of change,” a painter said. “Same way you keep your house is the same way you want to keep your property. It’s getting better.”

The next step is focusing on once-blighted properties such as Cooper’s Poynt Park — one of six locations throughout the city that will receive funding for public art projects.

“This was literally a state prison,” Mayor Frank Moran said. “Many of the sites that we’ve identified were illegal dumping sites.”

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It’s part of an initiative called “A New View” Camden. The city is just one of four nationwide that’s received a $1 million grant spread across two years to help develop areas that have been eyesores on the community.

“We’ll get to clean them up. Eradicate all of the illegal dumping, but also use some of the illegal dumping for sculptured art,” Moran said.

Places like the old Reliable Tire company, the scene of a 12-alarm fire back in 2011. Now it sits as an empty field with trash and debris littering the area.

“I’m extremely excited about it,” Camden County freeholder Carmen Rodriguez said. “We’re seeing the renaissance. We’re seeing the changes that are starting to begin.”

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City officials have just opened up the bidding process for local artists to submit their plans.

“Let them own that space. Let it be someplace they’ll feel good about,” Rodriguez said.

The goal?

A cleaner, more attractive Camden to smile about.

“It’ll just take a little bit of time,” the painter said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know?”

Moran says this is just one step in making Camden a destination city. The requests for proposals are due Sept. 6.