By Joshua Burd
A building in downtown Camden that was once the epicenter of recorded music is now poised to become Class A office space, under a plan to restore the historic property while honoring its past.
An investment group, Millennial Place LLC, has acquired the former RCA Victor world headquarters at 201 North Front St. and is set to begin a gut-renovation of the eight-story building. Billy Procida, whose firm is helping to finance the project, said the work will result in 80,000 square feet of new high-end office space in a city that many feel is on the rise.
“Camden has got such potential,” said Procida, CEO and president of Procida Funding & Advisors LLC, who likened the city to Tribeca, Jersey City and other previously downtrodden areas that are now among the hottest real estate markets in the region.
“These are the best places to invest at the end of the day,” he said.
The project comes amid several years of growing momentum in Camden, which has seen high-profile investments from the Philadelphia 76ers, Holtec International and anchor institutions like Cooper University Health Care and Rutgers University. The historic RCA Victor building, part of the former complex where the company pioneered phonograph recordings, is just blocks from a $1 billion waterfront development being overseen by Liberty Property Trust.
Millennial purchased the property earlier this year from the Camden School District, with Procida’s 100 Mile Fund providing a $5.5 million acquisition loan. The team is now overseeing the effort to restore the building, which offers views of the Delaware River and Philadelphia, so that it qualifies for federal Historic Tax Credits and incentives under the state’s Grow New Jersey program.
“You don’t want the whole world to just be one glass building,” Procida said. “You need some history and some mix to create a vibrant landscape. It’s a beautiful building.”
Procida also noted that Millennial owns an adjacent 20,000-square-foot building that could be redeveloped, along with a nearby warehouse that could serve as indoor parking or be torn down for new construction.
At 201 North Front St., Procida joined Millennial and brokers with JLL late last month to welcome some 200 visitors to an open house. They touted both the potential and the history of the building, where the likes of Frank Sinatra and Woody Guthrie graced a seventh-floor boardroom to sign recording contracts.
Built in 1916, the building was the executive offices of what ultimately became the 58-acre Victor complex in Camden, which spanned 10 blocks and employed more than 13,000 local residents. Procida, whose firm recently oversaw some $150 million worth of historic rehabs in Philadelphia said he believes the heritage of the RCA Victor building will appeal to prospective tenants who are already drawn by the city’s upward trajectory.
“There’s a lot of history in the building,” he said.