CAMDEN, NJ— David Adams was prepared to pay over $1,000 for sidewalk and curb repairs outside of his new restaurant Fresh2Go after flood waters reached the front steps of his Westfield Avenue business. Now, the small business owner won’t have to reach into his own pockets.
City and county officials broke ground Tuesday on a project that will repair and improve the streetscape along the East Camden business corridor of Westfield Avenue.
The project will provide new sidewalks, curbs, decorative street lamps and ADA compliant crosswalks along Westfield Avenue between 34th and 38th streets, an area that Mayor Frank Moran said is long overdue for an investment.
“Historically, when you come down Westfield Avenue from Pennsauken, you knew when you were in Pennsauken, and you absolutely knew when you hit Camden,” Moran said Tuesday. “That will be no longer.”
The project is being funded by a $713,875 Community Development Block Grant awarded to the city.
“That was really big for me,” Adams said, when he learned the city was repairing the sidewalks and curbs. “And they installed a light in front,” he added.
Moran called the business corridor of Westfield Avenue the “spine” of the East Camden community — and an area that once was so notorious for drugs that “you couldn't even walk in this community.”
“It used to look like a ghost town when I moved here. It’s changed a lot,” said Cathleen Lopez, who has lived on the corner of 34th Street and Westfield Avenue for 30 years. “I’m loving it.”
Moran said projects like the Westfield Avenue streetscape improvements are proof that the city is committed to inclusive prosperity.
“This is proof positive that we are committed to the small businesses and the grassroots community with investing and improvements as well,” Moran said. “We don’t succeed unless everyone sees investment and progress.”
Adams grew up in East Camden, just up the street from where he opened up Fresh2Go at 3400 Westfield Ave. two weeks ago. He found himself in Florida after leaving Camden, where he fell in love with the food. The menu at Fresh2Go is inspired by his time in Florida, and serves fresh chicken, lamb, fish and shrimp, along with smoothies. He said the foot traffic along Westfield Avenue is “amazing.”
Luke Lao has cut hair at the barbershop Stop Chippin for two years. He said that while he feels the city needs to fix all of its streets and sidewalks, the project outside of the barber shop at 3404 Westfield Ave. “is pretty decent.”
“It’s a good thing that now they’re bringing stuff to the city — that honestly should already have been done — but there is a time and place for everything,” Lao said.
Moran called on people like Lao and Adams, along with residents in the community, to help the city maintain investments like the one into Westfield Avenue by making sure to keep their storefronts clean.
“As we make these improvements in front of the businesses, we want the businesses to help us maintain the storefronts,” Moran said. “That’s the way Camden is truly going to come back. It’s not going to come back if we expect one entity or government to do it all.”