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Posted on: 2007/3/1 15:56

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

NJCU West Campus just the start of proposed expansion

Once an old brownfields site is cleaned and redevelopment finished, New Jersey City University will open its new West Campus.

Stretching from Route 440 to West Side Avenue, it will add more housing for students and others, offer retail and commercial space and, maybe, become the permanent home for the city's Visual and Performing Arts High School.

The 22-acre site is in a historically industrial area and NJCU plans to redevelop the land that Baldwin Steel Co. once occupied into an urban campus that is convenient for walking and accessible to public transportation.

"It will give people an opportunity to live in a place where a car isn't always a necessity," said Howard Buxbaum, NJCU's vice president for administration and finance. "We see it as a revenue producing investment for the university."

NJCU's expansion is part of larger economic development plans for the city's west side. It is expected to be a catalyst for the Jersey City Bayside Redevelopment plan, a larger-scale project intended to revitalize the area. The Bayside plan covers a 75-acre area between Communipaw, Bergen and Stevens avenues and Newark Bay.

"All of that land was for industrial use. One by one industry closed or moved," Buxbaum said.

The university has been acquiring land in the area for many years and is now using some of the property for parking.

The West Campus is bounded by Carbon Place on the north, West Side Avenue on the east and the Home Depot on Route 440 to the south. Buxbaum said many portions of the project are still in the design phase. It is being designed to encourage pedestrian traffic and to take advantage of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system.

"We're actually going to build streets and roads on the site," he said.

Buxbaum said it will be at least a year before NJCU begins construction on the first of three expected phases. The initial phase will include housing for students and non-students, retail shops and some parking. At least 100 residential units will be built for roughly 300 students during the first phase - a $150 million investment.

Student housing has been scarce at NJCU for a long time. Only 3 percent of the university's 9,000 students live on campus, Buxbaum said.

"There is a demand for that even among our existing student body," he said.

An arts center would also be built in the project's first phase. Buxbaum said NJCU's performing arts program has needed a better facility for a long time.

Jersey City's Visual and Performing Arts High School, which has been on NJCU's campus for 15 years, is lobbying to relocate to the West Campus. The school serves nearly 300 students, who interact with NJCU faculty and use other resources at the university.

"It certainly is a very unique opportunity that we hope to pursue," said Nancy Healy, a supervisor at the school. "There are a lot of reasons now that we want to remain on campus."

If NJCU becomes the school's permanent home, it could serve 400 students. The school is relying on the state Schools Construction Corp. for funding and the agency has still not made a decision.

"Our first choice is on the campus of NJCU," Healy said.

Buxbaum said NJCU expects to receive state and federal aid to fund the entire project, which in today's dollars would cost up to $350 million.

The state Department of Environmental Protection lifted its moratorium on approving chromium cleanups last month. That allows NJCU officials to begin determining the manner in which it will clean up the site.

"It is a positive development for us," Buxbaum said. "It could have held us up if it hadn't come."

Posted on: 2007/3/1 10:44

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