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Grand opening celebrates first Rowan Boulevard anchor store.

Barnes & Noble at Rowan University held its official grand opening Jan. 19, a daylong event with free food and Starbucks coffee, a cooking demo by celebrity chef  Spike Mendelsohn, and an appearance by Weird N.J. authors Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman.

Following a “soft opening” in early December, the 37,000-square foot store is quickly becoming a Rowan hot spot.

“I used to work for a Barnes & Noble and I just love going there, reading, and drinking coffee,” said junior Brianna Campos, 20, of Waldwick.

A residential advisor in Evergreen Hall, Campos, an English/education double major, said students were thrilled with the idea of a Barnes & Noble at Rowan even before it opened.

“It’s an ideal meeting place, it’s comfortable, and just nice to have right on campus,” she said.

Though the bookstore is technically off campus, it was designed to serve as one of several strong anchors for the fast-developing Rowan Boulevard project linking the University’s main Glassboro campus with the historic downtown.

Rowan Boulevard is a $300 million venture of mostly private funds designed to transform not just the university but the borough itself. The private-public partnership involves the redesign of the borough’s downtown and a transformation of more than 80 total acres.

“What I’m most looking forward to is Glassboro becoming a real, integrated, university town,” said Mayor Leo McCabe, a borough resident for more than 40 years.

Growth in stages

The first stage of construction involved the building of luxury five-story Rowan Boulevard apartments that, fully occupied, house nearly 900 students. The second stage was construction of the Barnes & Noble near the apartment buildings and a third stage, now underway, is construction of the mixed use Whitney Center.

That five-story building will contain street-level shopping, upper-level housing and several classrooms. Construction has also begun on a Marriott Courtyard Hotel and Conference Center.

Officials expect a minimum of 60 new retailers to join Barnes & Noble along the Boulevard and say close to $50 million in sales will be generated following the project’s completion in 2012.

“It really is a whole downtown redevelopment,” the mayor said.

The Barnes & Noble at Rowan University is only the second collegiate superstore in the state. It offers not only a wide selection of consumer products – newspapers, magazines, books, music and gifts – but serves as the official Rowan bookstore.

Store manager Cosmo Oliveri said in its first few weeks the store has already begun to draw traffic not just from Rowan and Glassboro but from much of Gloucester County.

“The purpose of the collegiate superstore is to serve the needs of  the students, faculty and staff but also the community,” Oliveri said. “It’s becoming almost a like a community center. People come in, get a cup of coffee, grab a newspaper and a few magazines and stay for a few hours. And we encourage that.”

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