Small, minority business owners in Camden, NJ concerned about traffic proposals

Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen says the goal is to do what's best for all while keeping small businesses in mind.
CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Situated in the middle of the 200 block of Market Street in Camden, Nuanced Café offers the type of local flavor big coffee chains can't.

"We are one of the first fully functional operational coffee shops in the city of Camden that's not a Starbucks," said Nuanced Café owner Rosemari Hicks.

Hicks opened the cafe in Camden earlier this year, taking her place along other Black and brown-owned businesses on Market Street.

The businesses that are in the area with her want to keep growing and want Market Street to do the same.

"We would like to see this become a two-way street, parking on both sides," said Hicks.

A proposed new traffic pattern would ideally slow down traffic, giving drivers a chance to notice the businesses in the area. Hicks thinks it would also increase pedestrian traffic.

Both would be good for business.

A two-way Market Street is a possibility now that Camden is looking at redeveloping both Market and Federal streets.

"What the county said is we want to build a safer, more accessible multi-modal roadway," said Kris Kolluri, CEO of the nonprofit Camden Community Partnership, which is tasked with researching options for the roadways.

Camden Community Partnership has been working for more than a year to get all the opinions and put all the options on the table for the county.

"Priority one is to make sure we engage residents and small businesses to make sure we get their thoughts on what a project will mean for them," said Kolluri.

There are seven proposals (or alternatives) so far. Hicks says many business owners like alternative 5, which calls for two-way traffic on both Market and Federal.

But, recently, she says there came a seventh option that would make Federal a two-way street and keep Market a one-way.

"It was very quietly circulated. It wasn't publicly circulated like all the options," said Quinn DeMenna, who is also a local business owner on Market Street.

Kolluri says the seventh option is a natural progression of the research process.

"In the middle of a process, if someone says, 'Hey have you thought about this solution?' The engineer's job is to add the alternative," he said.

Hicks is concerned that the option that keeps Market a one-way is being pushed harder. She says business owners have been asked to sign a document in support of the seventh option.

Hicks thinks that option would leave small business owners behind.

"The support should also be with small businesses that have stayed in the city that helped to stand up the city during its bad time," she said.

Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen says the goal is to do what's best for all while keeping small businesses in mind.

"Everyone has an idea of what they think of the situation. But we want to make it comfortable as much for everybody," said Carstarphen.

The Camden Community Partnership says all seven options are still on the table. They'll hold their next meeting to discuss it with the community in January.

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