CAMDEN, NJ — A vacant lot in north Camden will become a three-story building with enough room to house 12 students if all goes well for a proprietor with multiple lots in the city.

Joseph Incandela received a use-variance and site plan approval for the proposal Monday from Camden’s Zoning Board of Adjustment during its monthly meeting — the first held this year. 

“There are many lots in the city that are empty and one of many needs that we have is student housing, which I’ve also helped [to fulfill] with a property at 527 North 3rd Street as well,” Incandela, whose been in the community for 35 years, told TAPinto Camden at the meeting. 

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This property, located from 515-519 North 3rd Street, will cost approximately $850,000 to construct.

Incandela said that — pending additional city approvals — he hopes to begin construction in May and that it will take approximately 13 to 15 months for it to be completed. 

All members approved the New Business item, except for Vice Chairman Darnell Hance, who had to recuse himself due to a conflict. 

Discussing the lot and parking

During the zoning board meeting, Camden Children's Garden founder Sheila Robert — who works with Cooper Medical School of Rowan University volunteers at her garden — lauded the project. 

“The reason I’m for it is that we [have students] that are struggling for places to live,” she said. “There are apartments on Broadway but students can’t always afford the rent there. I have worked with Joe for the last 25 years. He’s a good neighbor and provides excellent housing at his properties here.”

Board members agreed that filling a vacant space in the city was a net positive, as did resident Paul Loftload who said during the public comment's portion that he’s, “excited to see new construction happening in the area.”

Zoning Board member Isaias Martinez said he's seen developers map out projects in the city for the last 30 years and has specifically dealt with Incandela in the past with good results.

"This is excellent work and I've seen the difference that's happened in Camden," he said.

The property itself has been legally consolidated to just 519 North 3rd Street, Incandela’s attorney said at the meeting. 

In addition to three studio apartments and nine one-bedroom apartments, the property would provide eight parking spaces on site.

Per state and zoning requirements, it would have to provide ten parking spaces, but Joe Mancini, president of Blackwood-based Tri-State Engineering and Surveying (TSE), said an additional two spots will be provided through a property that Incandela owns that is adjacent to the proposed student housing. 

The zoning board, which provided a list of its requirements and recommendations to Incandela, also sought clarity from TSE on ADA-signed parking spaces and whether it planned to demarcate certain spots with signs. Mancini said he would seek legal clarity on the matter, as he hoped spots would only be signed if residents in the building require that type of spot — otherwise he planned to make all eight spots general tenant parking.

Mancini, who aided in the layout of the project, said that it would still need additional approval — including the OK from the city engineer and city fire officials. 

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