NJIT's Campus Gateway Plan Moves Forward

Scene & Heard - NJIT's Campus Gateway Plan Moves Forward

The Newark renaissance is getting a major boost from NJIT. The university's Campus Gateway Plan to revitalize its surrounding neighborhood recently took a step forward, as NJIT officials picked a real estate company and an architect to manage the renovation project. (Read the full press release.)

Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate firm known for revitalizing campus neighborhoods, will oversee the project. The renovation will extend from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, on the campus's eastern edge, to Warren Street, just south of campus. Elkus Manfredi Architects will design the project, known as the Campus Gateway.

The university will build nineteen fraternity houses along Warren Street, on a site now housing a university parking lot. The new fraternity row will include retail shops, cafes, restaurants and recreational space, altogether forming a “Greek Village.”

 The row of fraternity houses that now stretches along MLK Boulevard, across from St. Michael's Hospital, will be converted into private townhouses. The four-block renovation will include vacant land owned by St. Michael's Hospital.

The Campus Gateway plan will connect with a city project known as Transit Village. Together the two projects will create a vital urban center in the heart of Newark's University Heights section.

The campus revitalization plan comes at time when the city is undergoing a major renaissance. High-rise apartment buildings, swank new restaurants, art galleries and bars are sprouting up. A recent op-ed essay in the Wall Street Journal indicated that Newark now has the most valuable land in the U.S.

Artists, musicians, and single people from New York and other nearby cities are moving to Newark, a university town that is quickly acquiring a bohemian, high-tech and creative edge. Next month, for example, an independent music festival will draw thousands to the city’s downtown area.

Some say the spirit of resurgence in the city is due to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is known nationally for his intellect and drive. And Booker, in turn, appreciates all that NJIT is doing to help the city.

"NJIT has done and continues to do so much for the city," Booker said during a recent talk he gave at the university. "NJIT is a major force in Newark. I'm awestruck by the university."

Robert A. Altenkirch, president of NJIT, has been a major force in Newark's Renaissance. As chairman of the Newark Downtown Core Redevelopment Corporation, Altenkirch is helping to redevelop Newark, including the building of the Newark Arena. The Arena, future home of the New Jersey Devils hockey team, is slated to open in October.

Altenkirch recently moved to Newark and is restoring an historic house in the city's Forest Hill section. He wants to be closer to NJIT and to the activities now shaping Newark’s future.

Altenkirch is continuing to improve the quality of life at NJIT, both on campus and off.

Under his tenure, the university spent more than $75 million building a new Campus Center, which hosts an array of activities for Newark groups. It also restored Eberhardt Hall, an historic building that graces Martin Luther King Boulevard. Construction will also begin soon on a $50 million stem cell research center, which will be a hub for the state’s biotechnology research.

Altenkirch also elevated the university’s athletics to NCAA Division I, bringing the highest level of college sports competition to NJIT and the Newark community, which is encouraged to embrace the NJIT Highlanders as "Newark's college teams."

Coupled with the step up to Division I, NJIT has upgraded its home playing venues. Since 2004, NJIT has installed artificial turf on its soccer field, renovated its gymnasium, and completed a 10-year deal to play all of its home games at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, an early cornerstone of the Newark Renaissance.

Nationally ranked research universities like NJIT always attract the brightest students and researchers from across the world. And their talent and creativity ultimately ushers in new technologies, and businesses, that help the economies of the city and the state.

But more than that, NJIT manages the state’s largest business incubator, which helps new high-tech businesses become successful. The incubator provides start-up companies with office and lab space, financial help and technical services. The incubator, started in 1988, has helped launch more than 60 companies – firms that help both Newark and New Jersey. The state also plans to create a high-tech business innovation zone -- with NJIT’s business incubator as its catalyst and core.

So altogether NJIT and Newark both have a bright and interlocking future.

“The ongoing transformation of the NJIT campus and the surrounding community both aids the city's development and benefits from it,” said Altenkirch. “It's a mutually beneficial process. And with Mayor Booker's exciting vision to guide it, Newark is poised for great things.”

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)