Rutgers 'Creating a New Heart'

Article excerpt

A $330 million construction project will transform the heart of Rutgers University's historic College Avenue Campus in New Brunswick, officials said on Thursday.

That academic complex and several others projects under way or about to begin at colleges and universities around the state are a step at addressing a lack of space that has made New Jersey one of the top exporters of college students in the nation, said Governor Christie, who attended the groundbreaking Thursday.

"That type of 'brain drain' is not something that is in New Jersey's long-term best interest," Christie said.

Last November, voters approved a $750 million bond that's being used to fund 176 projects around the state. It was the first statewide bond for higher education construction in a generation.

Rutgers is funding 13 building projects totaling $450 million with those bond proceeds. But it used other state and university bonds and tax credits for the redevelopment of the 7-acre site that was celebrated on Thursday, said Anthony Calcado, vice president for facilities and capital planning.

That project on Seminary Place at College Avenue will be home to the Rutgers undergraduate School of Arts and Sciences, a residential honors college, other student housing and retail space. Additionally, Rutgers Hillel, a Jewish group, and the New Brunswick Theological Seminary have raised their own funds to construct buildings at the site.

The existing home of the theological seminary will be razed. Shaped like a lampshade, the 1960s-era sand-colored building is aesthetically out of step with most of the rest of the College Avenue Campus with its red brick and brownstone buildings, some built in Rutgers' early years.

Officials expect the project to be finished by Rutgers' 250th anniversary celebration in 2016.

"Architecturally, it will create a bridge, creating a new heart for the historic campus," said Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi. Rutgers has spread from New Brunswick into Piscataway and Edison. There are also campuses in Newark and Camden.

Barchi marks the end of his first year as president this month -- a span that has included an invitation to join the Big Ten Athletic Conference in 2014 and a merger with the bulk of the state's medical university that has boosted Rutgers' enrollment to nearly 65,000. …