Rowan high-technology center plans on track

Rowan high-technology center plans on track

By GENE VERNACCHIO, Courier-Post Staff

GLASSBORO-One year after the New Jersey Economic Development Authority awarded Rowan University $6 million to create the South Jersey High-Technology Center in a Mantua orchard, peach and apple trees still stand.

But Rowan officials said the project is on track and ground may be broken on the estimated $15 million facility by year's end.

owan President Donald Farish, in a meeting Monday with the Courier-Post editorial board, also provided a glimpse of a revised, $400 million, 10-year university master plan, up from a $270 million, five-year campus makeover he revealed just a few years ago.

Furthermore, Farish said, he will unveil plans soon for 600 nearby acres the school is purchasing. The land will house relocated athletic fields and perhaps even academic space for new programs such as allied health and hotel management.

Farish said he is pleased with the progress of plans for the much-heralded high-tech center.

"These types of projects never go without a bump in the road," Farish said. "But this project has gone along very well. I think the progress we've made to date has been right on target."

He said the school is awaiting the conclusion of a strategic plan for the center by University City Science Center, a Philadelphia-based firm that was awarded a $150, 000 contract in September.

And on Wednesday, the school's board of trustees is expected to appoint a new board of directors for the technology center. Farish said he will serve as that board' s chairman.

"That board will be charged with recommending to our board of trustees what arrangement we should proceed with in terms of managing the facility," he said.

The university is weighing whether to hire UCSC to manage the planned facility or to conduct a search for a new executive director and manage the center internally.

That decision is expected in September.

Attempts to contact UCSC officials were unsuccessful Monday.

Farish said installation of infrastructure as well as building construction could begin at the site at routes 322 and 55 by year's end.

"That's a best-case scenario," Farish said. "I don't know if that's entirely realistic, but we certainly expect to break ground at the site by then."

Once ground is broken, Farish said, construction is expected to take about a year. The new facility could be up and running as early as the start of 2004.

In addition, Rowan is now envisioning building a center nearly three times as large as originally planned.

Last year, officials said they planned a 25,000-square- foot initial building with room for up to three additional buildings. But Farish said he is now eyeing a facility of close to 80,000 square feet.

The cost estimate remains at between $12 million and $15 million.

Of that amount, Rowan has already secured about $9 million, including the $6 million start-up grant from the state, a $1.5 million grant to include a new small business incubator and a $1.5 million grant from the Rowan University Foundation.

Farish said the school will request a $3 million federal grant. And the Gloucester County Freeholders have indicated a willingness to assist in extending infrastructure costs at the site.

Separately, Farish said, officials soon will announce plans for 600 acres the school is purchasing in and around the planned high-tech center site.

One of the concepts being weighed is whether to essentially merge new academic buildings with the planned new technology center.

That's a model Farish said exists in places like Denver, San Francisco, Hawaii and in England, but not along the East Coast.

"One thought is to create space for academic programs that we don't now have," Farish said. "For example, we do almost nothing now in the area of allied health. There could be new programs in almost anything - nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy."

Another area being considered by Rowan is restaurant and hospitality management.

"That's a natural for South Jersey," Farish said.

Secondly, Farish said, officials are considering adding facilities for post-graduate work adjacent to the technology center.

Combined, Farish said, Rowan, Rutgers University-Camden and Stockton State College have about 20,000 spots for for undergraduates but only about 3,000 spots set aside for graduate students.

"Graduate education, at some point, becomes pretty important," Farish said. "The people coming in here as engineers to work at businesses associated with our technology center will want to know where their continuing education is going to be. They'll want to know where they can get a master's degree."

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Date Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2002 - 20:39
Source URL: Courier-Post