The objectives of the College Avenue Redevelopment Initiative:
- Transform a significant area of Rutgers’ historic campus into a modern, accessible one;
- Leverage available government financial incentive programs for maximum impact to finance this major building effort;
- Create efficiencies, economies and improve pedagogy; and,
- Unify the College Avenue campus and create an aesthetically pleasing, cohesive environment that creates a sense of place for both town and gown.
The catalyst for this expansive project was a decision by the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, which has been part of the academic community of New Brunswick since the late 1780s, to sell approximately five of its 7.5 acre site to implement a long-term capital and facilities plan. The site is located on a parcel in the heart of Rutgers’ main New Brunswick campus bordered by College Avenue and George Street between Seminary Place and Bishop Place.
Devco partnered on this initiative with Rutgers, New Brunswick Theological Seminary and Rutgers Hillel. By infusing significant capital into the University’s residential and academic infrastructure, this comprehensive redevelopment initiative redefines approximately 10 acres of the University’s historic downtown campus. It also provided long overdue infrastructure improvements along College Avenue and connections between the new facilities.
The total project, with both Rutgers’ and non-Rutgers’ components, represented $330 million in total capital investment. To fund the College Avenue Redevelopment Initiative, Devco identified and assembled a thoughtful, workable, unique plan of financing. Devco made an extensive application to New Jersey Economic Development Authority for an innovative use of Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits and was awarded $33 million in tax credit allocations, which, in turn, leveraged approximately $295 million from the capital markets. This represented the first use of tax credits under the UTHTC program applied to a university setting. Thus, it provided a potential model for other high education institutions in the state to structure capital improvement transactions. Devco also provided a convincing application to the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority and the Secretary of Higher Education and received a $55 million grant from the State’s Higher Education Facilities Trust and from the Capital Improvement Fund for the project. Through this redevelopment project, Devco brought private-sector financing options to the table allowing Rutgers to achieve capital improvement goals within existing budgetary constraints.
The components of the project on the former Seminary site include the Rutgers Academic Building and the new Honors College. A significant student apartment complex, which includes the Sojourner Truth Apartments and The Yard @ College Avenue, was constructed on the former Lot 8 of the New Brunswick campus at the corner of College Avenue and Hamilton Street.
Under this initiative the campus of New Brunswick Theological Seminary was also redeveloped by maintaining the Seminary’s historic Sage Library while constructing a new 30,000 square foot academic and administration building fronting along College Avenue. A new facility for Rutgers Hillel, which was previously located on the Seminary block, was constructed on the opposite side of College Avenue.
The new 200,000 square foot academic building provides nearly 2,500 seats of instructional space in state-of-the-art lecture halls and classrooms along with departmental offices and offices for the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. Although enrollment at Rutgers has increased 14% since 2006, classroom space had only increased by 3.8% during the same timeframe. In fact, this new building, which opened in September 2016, was the first academic facility built on the main campus since 1961.The classroom and lecture hall seats available in the new facility alleviated that growing discrepancy and provides the necessary larger venues for instructional delivery of a modern liberal arts program.
In addition to adding the physical space for a growing academic program, the new academic building provides the opportunity for improved academic intangibles through the co-location of likeminded programs, making the impact to learning immeasurable. In addition, the University will ultimately enjoy significant administrative efficiencies by bringing various disciplines, departments and divisions that were scattered among inadequate offices throughout the main campus into one facility.
With brick and limestone facades and classic roofline, the Rutgers Academic Building offers a distinctive silhouette at one end of Voorhees Mall. It was designed for maximum open and public spaces, allowing an expansive pedestrian passage to the northern end of the campus with small park-like areas for casual, recreational and social uses. It is complemented by the adjacent residential honors college.
The Honors College represents best practices in higher education for exceptional students, offering special academic opportunities and challenges beyond the traditional curriculum and classroom experience. It provides honors students with a collegiate residential experience, shared with faculty and deans, and was specifically designed to create an environment for intensive small group study, faculty mentoring, and a wide range of cultural and social activities across all disciplines. The development of the residential Honors College advances Rutgers’ competitive position, leveling the playing field with other universities within the prestigious Association of American Universities and the Big Ten Conference. The new academic infrastructure, including the Honors College, is attracting “the best and the brightest” to Rutgers, and in the long-term, strengthening New Jersey’s workforce.
The Yard @ College Avenue is Rutgers newest student residential complex. It is an on-campus, 220,000 square foot, 442-bed apartment-style building for Rutgers University students. In addition to approximately 15,000 square feet of service retail space, a highlight of The Yard is its large public green space. This 25,000 square foot, exciting urban park – with creative seating and other amenities — has created a sense of community and serves as a focal point for students, faculty and surrounding neighborhoods. The interactive plaza also features a large outdoor video display for viewing the University’s cultural and sporting events, news, original programming, live feeds, and specialized content. Equally as important, the University is meeting occupancy demands for current and future student housing within an attractive, appealing on-campus experience.
The College Avenue Campus Redevelopment Initiative also provided long overdue infrastructure improvements along College Avenue, and connections between the new facilities by upgrading utility installments, pedestrian walkways, bike paths, ADA accessibility, and other essential and aesthetic streetscape elements.
This initiative took advantage of a substantial economic opportunity to support institutional needs, revitalize neighborhoods, and expand academic pursuit at Rutgers. Key to the implementation of this aggressive building program was the ability to finance it. Devco has become exceptionally adept at marshaling myriad resources from government incentive programs, tax credit programs and the financial markets to bring large mixed-use redevelopment projects to fruition. In that manner, this project is no different.
The College Avenue Campus Redevelopment Initiative has resulted in:
- Construction of 800,000 square feet of capital improvements
- 1,200 construction jobs and approximately 5,700 indirect jobs
- Modernization of the University’s infrastructure, utility service and connections, pedestrian walkways, ADA accessibility, campus bus support facilities, pedestrian lighting and transportation connections
- Increased green space and interactive public areas
- Additional housing options for students thereby encouraging reclamation of single family housing in local neighborhoods for the City’s growing workforce
- Expansion of critical mass and transit oriented development around New Brunswick train station
- Establishment of an alternative model for financing higher education capital projects
- Strengthened competitiveness of Rutgers by bringing it into parity with peer institutions within the prestigious Association of American Universities and the Big Ten