Status: Lost Forever
01/04 The building was purchased for $2.5 million, by a developer who is keen to rehabilitate the property.
02/07 Campbell Soup Co. has expressed interest in expanding its facilities in South Jersey and has been approved by the New Jersey Economic Improvement Authority for millions of dollars in state subsidies. The estimated $98 million project will include acquisition and demolition of private properties, including the Sears Building, to create a proposed 80,000-square foot office complex by fall 2008. This application for demolition based on the grounds of financial infeasibility of a structurally sound building, listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places is scheduled for review by the Historic Sites Council on June 21. For related news coverage in local and national press, please visit the PNJ Forum @ http://preservationnj.org/magazine/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=16.
06/22/07: The NJ Historic Sites Council, in a 5 -1 vote, denied the demolition permit for the Sears Building in Camden during their June 21 review of the application. The HSC found that the applicants – Campbells Soup Co, NJ EDA and the Camden Redevelopment Authority – had not adequately explored the economic feasibility of rehabilitation of the Sears Building in the broader context of the entire 90 acre site (the feasibility pro-formas had been limited to just the Sears Building’s immediate parcel), nor had they explored possible uses other than Class A office space. The HSC offered their help to the applicants to more fully explore other scenarios that would result in a successful redevelopment for Campbells and preservation of Sears. The Campbells real estate lawyer threatened that if Campbell’s was not allowed to demolish the building, the company would refuse to move forward with their redevelopment plans on the larger site. The HSC recommendation will now be sent to the DEP Commissioner, who may concur or overrule the recommendation.
9/2007: Lisa Jackson, the NJDEP Commissioner, overruled the June 2007 HSC decision, giving the green signal for Campbells to demolish the building. However, Frank Fulbrook, a preservation advocate who had filed a lawsuit against this development proposal citing conflict of interest issues, won the lawsuit in his favor. Campbell’s revised its development proposal and scaled back. The Sears building was then purchased by Ilan Zaken, head of Philadelphia-based clothing retailer Dr. Denim. Zaken who has committed to renovating the building into a showroom for his business.
3/2009: Cambell’s Soup has offered over $3 million to Ilan Zaken to purchase the Sears Building, which remains vacant and deteriorating. Zaken has turned down the offer.
9/2009: Campbell’s has requested that the City of Camden acquire the Sears Building via eminent domain.
1/2010: Local preservation advocate Frank Fulbrook has filed a second lawsuit regarding the Sears Building. The five-count suit challenges the motives of the City of Camden and Campbell’s in their push to demolish the Sears Building. No hearing date for the suit has yet been determined.
4/2010: Sears Building owner Ilan Zaken is proposing a second rehabilitation plan for the Sears Building. He has partnered with Camden entrpreneur Tony Merlino to propose conversion of the building’s first floor into a whosale restaurant supply emporium. The City of Camden cnotinues to support demolition of the Sears Building. The Camden Historic Preservation Commission, which is advisory, is expected to vote on the demolition proposal this month.
4/22/2010: The (advisory) Camden Historic Preservation Commission has approved demolition of the Sears Building 4-1. The City of Camden will have to take the building by eminent domain in order to proceed with demolition. The building’s owner has announced a second round of plans for rehabilitation (see entry above), however, no action has yet been taken to stabilize the building. The building’s future remains in litigation.
6/10/2013: Demolition of the Sears Building has begun. Campbell Soup Company, which now owns the building, is clearing the site for construction of a new office park: http://www.nj.com/camden/index.ssf/2013/06/camden_sears_building_coming_d.html#incart_river
Built in 1927 in a relatively empty part of Camden, the Sears, Roebuck & Company Building acted as the pioneering project to beautify the city and Admiral Wilson Blvd., a main entrance to Camden. Designed in the Neaoclassical style contrary to Sears’ typical utilitarian approach to their buildings, the building was designed by George Nimmons, Sears’ principal designer of the 1920s. The Sears Building is a significant example of department store merchandising applied to chain store retailing; Sears chose its locations very carefully, away from the center of downtown, as to keep prices down for them and for the consumer. This approach was essential in the development of chain stores as well as shopping centers.
Now houses daycare, training, worship facilities as part of the Camden Housing Authority.
In 2000, the Sears Building was threatened with demolition to during Governor Whitman’s initiative to beautify Admiral Wilson Blvd. for the 2000 Republican National Convention, held in Philadelphia. The project eventually converted 44 properties along the Boulevard into a landscaped park, but spared the Sears Building.
Bob Thompson, Camden Historic Preservation Officer,
Room 409, City Hall
Camden, NJ 08102
Paul Schopp, Executive Director, CC Historical Society
919 Conestoga Road,
Rosemont, PA 19010