CAMDEN (WPVI) --Demolition crews were hard at work Thursday on North 34th Street in Camden, knocking down several abandoned homes.
They were just a handful of more than 500 blighted buildings that have been knocked down so far in what local officials describe as the largest demolition project in state history.
"Demolishing these abandoned homes is an important step toward revitalizing the neighborhoods of the city," Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli said.
"Our residents and our children can fully enjoy Camden City parks and enjoy Camden's open space in a safe environment free of crumbling buildings," Camden Mayor Dana Redd said.
The $13 million project began in January 2015 and will eliminate 591 dilapidated buildings.
A bodega on Kaighn Avenue had constant bug and rodent problems until the abandoned building next to it came down.
"We had like 12 raccoons so now that the buildings are down we have it better, it's much cleaner," Nunez Laboz of Fortuna Mini Mart said.
Officials say this massive demolition project has also benefited the local economy. Over 75% of the people working on the demos are area residents.
"We know we could do it. Give us a shot. We are a small operation, but we can get it done and that's exactly what they did," Francesca Abed of Ralf's Plumbing said.
Francisco Jimenez says abandoned buildings often attract drugs and crime and taking them down has a true meaning.
"It gives us hope," Jimenez said.
Residents on the 900 block of North 19th Street are eagerly waiting for five homes to be demolished.
"Even if you are trying to fix your house, the one next door is just nasty," resident Maria Perez said.
"An abandoned building that comes down is a plus for everyone in the neighborhood," Councilman Brian Coleman said.
When the home demos are finished, the city plans to focus on abandoned commercial buildings.