NJ college campuses becoming mini ‘downtowns’
If you build it, they will come.
Student housing above and businesses below. Select colleges and universities throughout New Jersey have essentially formed their own little towns right on campus, giving the campus community and nearby residents a chance to blend as one.
At Rowan University, the $350 million Rowan Boulevard project is already buzzing with more to come. Beyond housing for nearly 900 students, the corridor is packed with shops, restaurants and medical providers, anchored by major names such as Barnes & Noble & Courtyard Marriott.
"A lot of thought went into this, and it wasn't just about our students; it was about our community as well," said Jose Cardona, Rowan's vice president of university relations.
But the project can serve as a big draw for potential applicants. Cardona noted all campus tours go through Rowan Boulevard, showing students where they could soon be hanging and perhaps working while receiving an education.
Campus Town, offering similar amenities and a similar vibe, is entering its second year of operations on the main campus of The College of New Jersey.
According to Curt Heuring, vice president of administration, the project has helped erase the perception that "there's nothing to do here at TCNJ without a car."
"You can stay the weekend and experience Campus Town," Heuring told New Jersey 101.5. "I think this has added to TCNJ's competitiveness."
Both mixed-use development efforts were made possible by legislation in 2009 that allowed public colleges to enter into public-private partnerships like the ones achieved at Rowan and TCNJ. The law expired during the summer of last year.
Michael Klein, executive director of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, said the time has come for the state to change the underlying law and allow projects such as "campus towns" to continue.
"I think a good starting point for the public-private partnerships is that you can see the great success on the college campuses themselves," Klein said.