Camden's first hotel in over 50 years builds service industry amid pandemic

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The Hilton Garden Inn is the first major hotel to open in over five decades in a city that once had a reputation for high crime and unemployment.

Now, they're hiring local residents - all in the middle of a pandemic.

For Maria Zambrana, it's her first week at a new job after nine months out of work.

"Before, I worked at the DoubleTree Hotel," said Zamabrana. "They closed for the pandemic. I had been working 19 years in that place."



Zambrana is one of the local staffers who make up 40% of those employed by the new hotel that's set to open Friday along the Camden waterfront.

"We're in the very beginning stages of building a robust hospitality sector," said Kris Kolluri, the president and CEO of Cooper's Ferry Partnership.

"The pandemic has really impacted communities of color more than other communities," said Kolluri. "To see a business open and engage, and hire Camden residents is one of the most gratifying and moral boosting things I can ever point to."



The hotel features 180 guest rooms and 4,500 square feet of meeting space.

The real estate is nestled next to the river, the Ben Franklin Bridge and American Water's headquarters.

"It's a shot in the arm that Camden needed to support the ongoing business development and the demand for conference and meeting room space," said Dana Redd, the former mayor of Camden and current board member of Cooper's Ferry Partnership.

While the finishing touches are being finalized, this week is more than just a grand opening for Camden, it's financial stability for residents like Zamabrana during an uncertain time.

The grand opening is officially on Friday and guests can start booking on Monday.
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