Proposal for biomedical center in downtown Camden advances

A $51 million biomedical center in downtown Camden received preliminary approval from New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority this week.

The four-story building would sit near the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Broadway, across from a major mass transit stop.

It’s a collaboration between nearby Rutgers and Rowan universities. The Coriell Institute for Medical Research, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Camden and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey are also involved.

Kris Kolluri, CEO of Rowan University Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors, said the center would eventually house about about a hundred professors, as well as students, and focus on translational research.

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“I think ‘eds and meds’ for at least the downtown core and what I’m going to call the university district is going to be the epicenter of growth with regard to health sciences,” said Kolluri.

The health care sector employs about 86,000 people in South Jersey, said Kolluri. Such a center could help meet the future workforce demands of the region, as well as develop and commercialize technology, he said.

The proposal represents the first phase of a much larger health sciences campus envisioned for that location.

“This spot, which has been chosen, is appropriate because it’s next to Rowan, a block next to Rutgers-Nursing,” he said. “It’s an area in which Camden is blessed with having assets in place, so our goal is to not only leverage those assets but to build a platform for both instruction and research.”

The center still needs final approval from the authority. It now heads to a bond committee for review.

Approval would mean displacing several businesses, and that makes some longtime residents weary.

“You’re taking businesses and people are going to lose their jobs,” said Stacey Stover, walking by the future site. “It don’t ever turn out the way they say.”

Construction of the center would bring in about 500 construction jobs, said Kolluri, adding that businesses have been approached, and it’s the board’s intent and requirement by law “to engage in good faith negotiations at fair market value.”

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