Open for Business
Rowan University, its namesake boulevard, Glassboro and Gloucester County took a huge step forward December 1 with the opening of the Barnes & Noble Collegiate Superstore.
The superstore, a 36,000-square foot, two-story retailer, is the first commercial hub along the fast-developing Rowan Boulevard, a $300 million development of mostly private funds linking the university's main Glassboro campus with the borough's downtown.
The store features all the items and amenities Barnes & Noble customers have come to love - a huge collection of books, periodicals, music and gift items, Starbucks café and reading areas - plus a Rowan Prof shop for university clothes and gear and a collegiate bookstore.
"The concept behind the Collegiate Superstore is it allows students, faculty and staff from the university to mingle with the community at large," said Chris Colbert, a B&N regional manager who attended the soft opening.
The soft opening - quieter, with less fanfare - enabled the store to open in time for the holiday shopping season but a splashier grand opening is planned for January 18.
"We hope people come in, have a cup of coffee, browse the aisles and enjoy themselves," Colbert said.
The Barnes & Noble, which will become Rowan's official bookseller, will serve as an anchor to the 1/3 mile-long Rowan Boulevard project and the dozens of retail and restaurant businesses expected to line it. Already garnering praise for its open, walkable design, the project was engineered to feature city-style street level shopping with housing above it.
While much of the Boulevard is still under construction, the project is already transforming both the campus and the community. The first phases, upscale student apartment buildings with nearly 900 beds, have already been built and fully occupied, and the next phase, construction of the Whitney Center, a mixed-use property with honors housing, retail and parking, has begun. Also begun is land preparation for a Marriott Courtyard hotel and restaurant property.
The thrill is on
For students browsing and shopping during the store's first hours, the excitement of having a full scale Barnes & Noble virtually on campus was palpable.
"I came to Rowan for the Engineering program but this is a great added bonus," said Danilo Zeppilli, 18, a freshman from Matawan.
"It's going to be great," said Tiffany Szeles, 18, a freshman in civil engineering from Keansburg. "There's clothes, food, books. I like it."
Ed Guerra, a professor of physics and astronomy, said the proximity of the store to the new student housing left him practically wistful for his own college days.
"The whole center of mass of the university is moving," Dr. Guerra said. "This is a place to think, to relax, to listen to music. The entire quality of life at Rowan will be impacted by it."
Glassboro Mayor Leo McCabe said a survey conducted nearly seven years ago found, of all things on their wish list, residents wanted a national bookstore in the downtown. He said the Rowan Boulevard project, a venture between the borough, the university, and builder SORA Holdings of Sewell, is providing not just a national bookstore but a strong tax-paying ratable. SORA will own all of the property along Rowan Boulevard, pay local property taxes on it, and occupants such as Barnes & Noble and Rowan will pay rent.
SORA principal Greg Filipek said it was too soon to publicly say who the other tenants along the boulevard will be but, with its opening, the B&N store is serving as both an anchor to the project and a beacon to other retailers.
"There's a lot happening," said Filipek, himself a university graduate from the Class of 1981. "There's a tremendous amount of interest."