Camden hopes for federal grant to bolster Mount Ephraim redevelopment project

New Jersey officials hoping Congress fully funds a national program to help revitalize distressed cities so Camden has a chance at a $30 million grant say Republicans propose spending cuts that threaten to derail the project.

Camden is one of nine finalists for a Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Republicans in Congress are reportedly setting aside as little as $20 million in the federal budget for the HUD program, far short of the $250 million President Obama requested. That disparity could drastically reduce the amount Camden may receive if it is chosen as a grant recipient.

“Both the House and the Senate are pushing funding bills that would severely undermine this program,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey. “This Choice Neighborhoods Initiative has already been underfed and undernourished.”

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The plan Camden submitted to HUD aims to revitalize what city officials call the Mount Ephraim neighborhood, located in the eastern section of Camden near the Ferry Avenue PATCO station. (It should not be confused with the Camden County borough of Mount Ephraim, which is about four miles away.)

Under the plan, the city would redevelop 460 housing units, build two new schools, and upgrade parks and public safety infrastructure.

Mayor Dana Redd said the widespread community support for the project may not be enough.

“If the funding’s not there, then we have a problem quite frankly,” she said.

HUD officials considering grant applications will visit Camden to tour the Mount Ephraim neighborhood Aug. 13.

Other finalists for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grants include Atlanta; Boston; Milwaukee; Sacramento; Baltimore; Memphis; Kansas City, Missouri; and Renton, Washington.

Camden officials say they will raise $286 million from public and private sources to bankroll the remainder of the project.

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