Subaru of America broke ground this week on its new North American headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. Speakers at the ceremony praised the carmaker for its part in growing Camden’s economy and its promise to create local jobs. Jerry Sweeney, the President, CEO and Trustee of Brandywine Realty Trust, the site’s developer, emphasized a key mission of his company is to build multi-modal, mixed-use town centers, noting Subaru’s role in their creation of a brand new urban town center for Camden.
Many of the remarks made at the groundbreaking ceremony emphasized Subaru’s branding as a “unique” automobile company. But what is unique about a “wholly car-oriented” car company headquarters? If anything, this represents a missed opportunity for Subaru to distinguish itself — both as a car company and within the Camden community.
It seems little is being done to connect the 35 percent of Camden households that lack access to a vehicle to new developments such as Subaru’s new site–even though employers relocating to Camden will be hiring local residents, according to New Jersey State Representative Don Norcross. Subaru’s future headquarters also will be only a half-mile from Camden’s largest transit hub and will be near a planned PATCO station on Haddon and Newtown Avenues. But existing site plans featuring excessive surface parking will encourage 1,000 more cars into a city with existing environmental health and traffic safety concerns.
Before this project reaches completion, Subaru of America should look to Panasonic, Adobe Systems Incorporated and its own Tokyo-based counterpart for examples of how companies can embrace sustainable transportation and development as part of their brand.