Developer chosen for $50 million Campus Town project

Sketches of the planned Campus Town, provided by PRC Group, brings life to the project, which could reach completion by fall 2013. Retail stores, restaurants, a gym and new student housing all are included in the plans. (Images courtesy of College Relations)

Plans for Campus Town are picking up speed. Organizers of the proposed project, which consists of an on-campus shopping, dining and living center, announced on Sept. 21 that a private developer had been selected and that the proposal will be submitted to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in October for review.

The PRC Group, a multi-faceted real estate owner, developer and construction management company based out of West Long Branch, N.J., has been selected by the College to take on the $50 million project, the College announced in a press release. PRC will assume all financial obligations and will manage the development.

Campus Town has been a project in consideration for several years, and an initial planning study was done in 2007, according to the project’s official website. However, it wasn’t until a new state law was passed two years later that College officials found a way to afford it.

The New Jersey Economic Stimulus Act of 2009 allows public colleges to bypass public bidding laws and make deals with private developers. The College has decided to use this law to make Campus Town a reality.

If the New Jersey Economic Development Authority approves the construction proposal, the College will become only the second school to make use of the act. Montclair State University was the first, opening a $211 million privately owned and operated residence hall complex this fall.

“Campus Town will expand the high-quality environment of the campus and further strengthen (the College’s) commitment to the learning and living community,” said College President R. Barbara Gitenstein. “The ability to pursue this project as a public-private partnership is a wonderful opportunity for the College and (College) students will benefit from our ability to utilize this forward-looking option for generations to come.”

Currently, students of the College must look to Route 1 for the majority of their shopping options, and those without cars must rely on friends or public transportation to get there. College officials said Campus Town is meant to give the campus community a much closer alternative locale where students can go shopping and hang out with friends.

PRC Group Vice President Greg Lentine said the project will consist of 80,000 square feet of commercial space and 216,000 square feet of residential space that will be leased to the College for at least 50 years. Lentine added that they could be applying for building permits by spring 2012, and the project itself could reach completion by fall 2013.

Although there are currently no specific businesses lined up for the new commercial buildings, there are many plans for what they will be.

In addition to retail stores and restaurants, Campus Town will be the location of the new campus bookstore, which will free up some space in the Brower Student Center,
said Stacy Schuster, executive director of College Relations.

A fitness center is also planned to be included in the project, but unlike the bookstore, this will not replace the current campus gym. Instead, Schuster said, students will be offered a discounted membership.

But the massive construction project isn’t meant for just the College to enjoy. Rather, it is designed to allow for more interaction with the local community by being open to the public and, according to Lentine, to “stimulate the local and regional economies by creating new jobs, bringing in businesses and generating local tax revenue.”

Because Campus Town is currently slated to be built along part of Pennington Road directly south of the campus’ main gate, some demolition needs to take place before construction can begin. According to Schuster, this includes the Bonner Center, which will be relocated, and the adjacent parking areas.

Information and updates can be found at tcnj.edu/campustown.