A $295 million renovation project on College Avenue is poised to transform the Rutgers campus, according to New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) president Chris Paladino.
In July, the New Brunswick City Council from Rutgers to build a mixed-use structure containing student housing, shopping and dining on the parking lot located at the corner of Hamilton Street and College Avenue, construct a new parking deck and purchase land from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary for the purpose of constructing an honors college and a new academic building.
According to a press release issued by Rutgers University in June, the $295 million project is to be funded using $199 million in student residential and dining fees and $44 million from the general budget over a 30-year period.
An additional $52 million would come through state tax credits secured by DEVCO, the release said.
DEVCO is the agency that will oversee the construction of the student housing and own and manage the building, according to Rutgers.
DEVCO currently manages Rockoff Hall, located on George Street in the theater district.
A More Modern Rockoff Hall
The 800-bed student housing structure is the first new student housing on College Avenue in almost 50 years, according to Rutgers.
The building will be similar to Rockoff Hall, but it will be a more modern design than the 12-story structure that was built in 2005.
Paladino said the project is intended to serve as a central gathering place for students, and will include a 25,000 sq. ft. common space, an outdoor Jumbo-tron sized television, a fitness center, retail space, and designated spots for the , the current main occupants of the lot.
Paladino said the actual location that the trucks will occupy has not yet been determined.
"But we will return the Grease Trucks, and they will be an integral part of what we are doing," he said.
The proposed public space in this new structure would rival that of places like Bryant Park, Paladino said, who described the structure as "A great place to live for the first time on College Avenue."
"(Rutgers) has lacked really great public spaces," Paladino said, due to the sprawl of the campus.
The building is projected for completion in fall 2015.
Student input is being sought on the project, Paladino said. In the case of Rockoff Hall, students chose colors and all furniture used in the building, he said.
Nearby, the purchased property from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary is set to be used for a residential honors college that can accommodate 500 students, and a 150,000 sq. ft academic building for use by the School of Arts and Sciences with 2,000 classroom seats, according to Rutgers.
“This initiative would help the university meet the growing demand for modern classroom and residential space, while a campus wide honors college would enable Rutgers to attract New Jersey’s best and brightest students,” outgoing Rutgers University President Richard McCormick said in a June prepared statement.
The honors college is projected to be completed by fall 2015, and the academic building in fall 2016.
Additionally, a new campus parking deck is to be constructed on George Street, with a projected completion of fall 2013, but that's not the only parking change coming to the campus.
Paladino said as the construction progresses, parking spaces on College Avenue between Hamilton Street and Bishop Place, and spots on Seminary Place will gradually be removed from the streets.
Additionally, the mixed-use building on the corner of Hamilton Street and College Avenue will not have on-site parking. A Rutgers bus will still stop at that location, and will be installed by the time the building opens.
The plan is to turn the area into a walking campus, but the removal of the parking spaces is at least two years away, Paladino said.
Glen Patterson, Planning Director for the city, said the street parking in the targeted area is already limited, and that Rutgers has been encouraging commuters over the past six to eight years to park on Busch and Livingston campuses and take the buses over to College Avenue.
Cars circling the block looking for a space on College Avenue or Seminary Place cause a lot of congestion in the area, Patterson said. Additionally, there is a high number of pedestrians crossing on College Avenue, and decreased congestion can improve pedestrian safety, he said.
The proximity of the future , the new booksellers and the train station will all assist in making the area more walking-friendly for students, Patterson said.