The next step along Rowan Boulevard

The next step along Rowan Boulevard

Whitney Center groundbreaking heralds next phase of major construction.

The dream of building a walkable, livable community center linking Rowan University's main Glassboro campus with the borough's downtown took a big step forward Sept. 28 with a groundbreaking for Whitney Center.

A mixed-use structure at the corner of Rowan Boulevard and Redmond Avenue - diagonally across from a nearly-completed Barnes and Noble Collegiate Superstore - Whitney Center will contain 22,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and housing for Rowan University honors students on the upper levels.

The groundbreaking was significant because it marked the next phase of construction on the project but also because of what will be constructed - buildings that are not Rowan, not Glassboro, but something of both.

"What this is doing is creating a university community, a quintessential university town," said Rowan University President Donald Farish. "We are integrating the future of the campus and the town together."

Farish and other officials said both Rowan and Glassboro will benefit from the creation of Rowan Boulevard. For Rowan, the $300 million privately-funded project will provide housing, shopping and work opportunities for students within a short walk of campus. For Glassboro it will provide urban renewal, a strong anchor designed to spur further growth, and commercial development to offset the local tax rate.

"We are trying to restore the concept of a true downtown Glassboro," said Mayor Leo McCabe.

McCabe said 400 temporary construction jobs were already created and a projected 700 full-time positions will be available once construction is complete.

The first phase of construction - two five-story housing complexes owned by builder SORA Holdings and leased by the university - provide roughly 900 beds for Rowan students.

Construction is slated to begin this fall on a Marriott Courtyard Hotel and Conference Center as well as a second retail building featuring a multi-level parking complex.

Once complete, plans for Rowan Boulevard, a one-third-mile span linking U.S. Route 322 with High Street, include broad tree-lined sidewalks and as many as 60 new retail outlets including a dozen new restaurants.

"The way out of our present economic crisis is to build, with private investment, to create long-term jobs for our community," said U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, whose work in Congress helped secure seed money for the project and who attended the groundbreaking.

"You hear that earth moving equipment?" Andrews said, glancing over his shoulder. "That is music to our ears."

Also attending the morning ceremony were at least a half dozen students enrolled in the Thomas N. Bantivoglio Honors program who plan on moving into the completed Whitney Center next year.

"Being from Glassboro, living here all my life, I'm just excited about all the changes going on," said freshman bio-chem major Heather Felker, 18. "I'm excited about the housing but I'm also really looking forward to the restaurants."

Freshman James Logan, also from Glassboro, said he's thrilled with the transformation of his home town.

"To be honest, this was kind of a downtrodden section but this is breathing new life into the whole area," said Logan, 18, a marketing major. "I think it's going to work. This will really make students citizens of the community."

Watch a video of the ceremony.