This project began in 2003 and has involved the input of many local individuals from divergent backgrounds as well as input from those offering professional assessment. Project discussions took place with many representatives of such groups as: Wiggins Marina/Camden City Yacht Club, the Camden County Historic Society, the Fairview Historic Society, Fairview Main Street Program, the Heart of Camden
Inc., and the South Jersey Port Corporation. Much of the interest was based in the strong desire to find a way to develop the potential of the related historic maritime businesses, districts and communities in the area such as the adjacent community of Fairview (Yorkship Village) built for the shipbuilders at nearby New York Shipbuilding Corp.

Participants were well aware of the intense state interest in redeveloping the neighborhoods of Yorkship Village and Waterfront South and the many pre-existing redevelopment plans. Perhaps most central was the BOBS Plan , developed in 2002, by Alley Friends Architects of Philadelphia. The BOBS Plan (BOBS stands for Boulevard of Boats and Ships). Alley Friends, were the architects who conceptualized the successful Avenue of the Arts plan for South Broad Street in Philadelphia. The BOBS Plan is based on the realization that the Camden-Philadelphia waterfronts possess a world class array of buildings, ships, districts and boating activities related to American maritime history. Calling for a coordinated approach to marketing these attributes, the plan also suggests the development of new facilities, such as a maritime museum, in the City of Camden.

Another major plan for this area was authored by Professor Tony Nelessen of Rutgers University and sponsored by New Jersey Department of Community Affairs as part of its Housing Scholars Program in the summer of 2003. The City of Camden, N.J. Department of Community Affairs and the Heart of Camden also commissioned redevelopment plans for both Waterfront South and   Fairview that called for the revitalization of the area with an emphasis on their waterfront access. Recently, waterfront themes in general and the museum project were further developed in a planning studio course at Rutgers University-Camden in the Spring of 2006. Finally, as community support coalesced, the museum became an important part of the new Waterfront South Neighborhood Revitalization Plan developed by the Heart of Camden Inc. in October 2007.

As a result of this significant impetus, in the Spring of 2006, the Heart of Camden Inc., a community development corporation, partnered with the newly formed museum board to develop a maritime museum. In September of 2006, having searched for a suitable building for the museum, the Heart of Camden was able to purchase the former Church of Our Savior. At the time of settlement, the roofs were leaking, there was some water damage to the chapel and the building suffered from general neglect. The museum board immediately began to develop a strategic plan for the development of the museum while pursuing funding to improve the buildings. By December 2006, temporary repairs to the rectory allowed some Heart of Camden staffers and the Museum's development offices to locate to the site. In the Spring of 2006, in order to further the educational mission of the museum, the board authorized the project director to develop partnerships with a diverse array of local community based organizations.

With strong leadership, our relatively new, but very active
board has already partnered with many such organizations. These partnerships have assisted project staff in raising over $ 600,000 from a wide variety of public and private sources. These funds have been designated to repair the roof, heating and security systems, hire a professional planning firm to design the new museum endow a small boat gallery, a major maritime statue, museum signage, and a strategic plan, as well as other projects. Additional grant applications totaling over $400,000 are pending to cover further renovations to the buildings and museum programs. In addition, working with our partner organizations, specifically the Heart of Camden Inc., we have marshaled many hours of volunteer labor that have resulted in significant clean up and painting sessions at the project buildings. As a result, the museum now has offices and meeting rooms on site.
 

designed by: Robert Rae Design Studio, LLC

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