CAMDEN, NJ — Camden's first hotel in over 50 years, the Hilton Garden Inn, will be ready to check-in guests this Friday - a milestone on the city’s ever-changing waterfront. 

The 180-room hotel, which broke ground in May 2019, sits at 1 Penn St., what used to be the site of Campbell's Field.

It boasts a 4,100 square-foot dining, bar and event space with panoramic views of the Delaware River, Ben Franklin Bridge and Philadelphia skyline.

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“In addition to jobs, the hotel will bring people to the city to visit Adventure Aquarium, BB&T and other nearby businesses...hopefully new ones that open up on the waterfront as well,” Vanessa Kukta, Director of Sales and Marketing, told TAPinto Camden during a tour Wednesday. “Companies also say hey, maybe we want to be in Camden too."

The city’s former sole hotel, the Hotel Plaza, closed at 5th and Cooper streets in 1985 and was vacant before it was demolished in 2014. 

The Hilton Garden Inn will include amenities like an executive board room, various meeting rooms and a 1,300 square-foot fitness center. The Water Street Grill, a stand-alone eatery and bar, on the first floor provides both indoor and outdoor seating.

Next year, Bill Kai, general manager at the hotel, sees the hotel hosting July 4th celebrations, birthday parties, weddings, New Year's Eve events and chances for local businesses to display their products. 

The $58 million Hilton Garden Inn was developed by Ensemble Real Estate Investments.

It received $18.4 million in tax credits awarded by the Economic Development Authority (EDA). Similar incentives have allowed headquarters to be built for American Water ($164 million) and Conner Strong, the Michaels Organization and RFI (combined $245 million). The Philadelphia 76ers used $82 million in tax breaks for the team's new practice facility further down Delaware Avenue.

The hotel’s staff includes 33% Camden residents, and when at full capacity, Hilton Garden Inn will provide as many as 45 jobs. Hotel management said it is working with Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and it’s jobs program, Camden Works, to further provide local employment. 

Impacts of COVID-19

The hotel was initially set to open in mid-October but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19.

It wasn’t the only thing that the pandemic impacted. 

Besides not offering its buffet, requiring social distancing and the wearing of masks, the hotel also guarantees guests no one has entered the room they're staying in by placing sticky seals on the doorway after clean-ups. 

Also, cleaning has been more rigorous with “hospital grade disinfectant,” safety protocol signs have been placed throughout the building, staff are trained on health regulations and capacity rules are in place to ensure state and CDC guidelines are followed.

“One of the biggest things that the owners have made sure is that this hotel is one of the top hotels, [helped by a] system called Bipolar Air Ionization. It’s an ionization machine that brings fresh air into the building and ionizes it and kills all the bacteria,” said Kai, noting that the same systems are used in hospitals. “We’re going to work so this place is 100% safe.”

Kai is optimistic next summer - once COVID-19 is under control - there will be renewed interest from people looking to travel to the area.

“COVID has decimated the whole hospitality industry,” he said. “Corporate travel is [one example]. During the pandemic a lot of people have been working from home... Once companies feel it’s safe to send employees back out, more travel will happen.”

In a statement, Hilton said the waterfront hotel expects to generate over $1 million in state and local tax revenues annually.

“This is a momentous occasion that Camden residents, business owners, and visitors have waited for patiently,” said Camden Mayor Frank Moran. “Camden’s revitalization is tangible and the Hilton Garden Inn Camden Waterfront will be one of the leading catalysts for our city’s economic resurgence.”

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