A Plan for Enhancing the College Avenue Campus

June 20, 2012

Members of the Rutgers Community:

The Board of Governors and Board of Trustees today endorsed the framework for one of the most significant campus development initiatives in the university’s history—including the first new academic building on the College Avenue Campus in nearly half a century. The boards’ actions authorize the administration to finalize discussions and enter into contract with New Brunswick Development Corporation (Devco). The project is contingent on Devco securing tax credits from New Jersey’s Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program.

As many of you know, early in my tenure as Rutgers’ president I presented a vision for making College Avenue one of the finest campuses in the country. Serious financial constraints hampered our ability to accomplish everything we hoped. But with this innovatively financed plan Rutgers has a great opportunity to enhance this historic campus in ways that will strengthen its appeal to faculty and high-achieving students, and bring pride to the entire university.

Once finalized, this forward-thinking plan, the result of a public-private partnership with Devco, would enable Rutgers to meet the high demand for classrooms and student housing on the College Avenue Campus. It would also allow Rutgers to establish an Honors College that can play a vital role in keeping the best and brightest students in New Jersey.

In cooperation with Devco, Rutgers would integrate five acres along George Street between Seminary Place and Bishop Place into the College Avenue Campus to build: 

  • a 500-student Honors College for our most gifted students;
  • a dining facility where faculty and students can meet and dine together; and
  • a major academic building for the School of Arts and Sciences with lecture halls configured with high-tech support, as well as modern departmental offices. 

The New Brunswick Theological Seminary will continue to occupy a smaller portion of its property along College Avenue.

It is nearly 50 years since the College Avenue Campus saw construction of a new academic building. Since 2006, enrollment on the New Brunswick Campus has grown 14 percent, while classroom space has increased by only 3.8 percent. Compounding the problem is the fact that instructional delivery today necessitates larger venues as well as smaller break-out rooms, and Rutgers has too few 100–250 seat lecture halls.

In addition, the new academic building would create a more effective administrative structure and eliminate some $15 million in deferred maintenance costs by replacing old, inefficient, and costly buildings, some dating from the late 19th century, that are located around the New Brunswick Campus.

Another element of the project would be the construction of an 800-bed, apartment-style residence hall on what is currently Parking Lot 8 across from Scott Hall, while shifting parking to a new deck to be built in Parking Lot 16 on George Street. The residence hall is expected to be owned and managed by Devco, but would include the full Rutgers residence life program. The new residence hall would help us address the housing demand on campus and replace some of the current aging housing stock, some of which is more than 75 years old. 

The construction, to be completed by fall 2016, promises to greatly enhance Rutgers’ oldest campus by adding 674,000 square feet of much-needed academic and residential space. But we realize that it may also raise concerns in the university community, especially regarding its impact on parking and the “grease trucks” that now occupy part of Lot 8.

Recognizing that campus parking is at a premium, the university will make every effort to provide appropriate parking in New Brunswick during construction. The new parking deck will be built first to provide sufficient spots for those who currently park on Lots 8 and 16 as well as those working in the new buildings. Transportation Services will provide additional information to individuals who use these lots as the project gets underway.

Regarding the “grease trucks,” Devco, which will assume management of Lot 8 on a long-term lease, has stated its intention to work with the vendors to incorporate them into the new project as part of creating an exciting urban space on Lot 8.

At this point, several essential pieces have yet to be finalized before this ambitious plan can move forward, including purchase of the seminary land by Devco and acquisition of state tax credits for construction of the residential housing, but we believe the necessary pieces will fall into place. 

You can learn more about the project at collegeavenuecampus.rutgers.edu and read the news release about today’s actions by the boards at http://news.rutgers.edu/news-releases/2012/06/rutgers-university-b-20120620. This initiative has tremendous potential for meeting critical academic needs and for adding luster to our historic College Avenue Campus.

Richard L. McCormick
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey