City and state officials are hoping for a summer 2021 groundbreaking of a long-stalled technology and life science development in Middlesex County, known as The Hub in New Brunswick.
The proposed $175 million project would feature 210,000 square feet of commercial space towering over the downtown of the county seat, which sits as the home of the flagship campus for Rutgers University, global drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, and the main campus of RWJBarnabas Health.
It is slated for a 2024 completion, according to Gov. Phil Murphy’s Office. He first introduced The Hub in May 2018 alongside several local and Rutgers officials. It was part of the economic master plan he introduced that October.
Previously occupying the site was the Ferren Mall and parking deck, which was torn down in 2017. The site has since been an empty lot.
“This is where start-ups would take root and grow,” Murphy said in a Thursday afternoon remotely-held Zoom press conference. “That vision is manifesting itself in The Hub, which would revolutionize research and investment and reposition New Jersey as the global home of innovation.”
Rutgers, RWJ and Hackensack Meridian Health would rent out 55,000 square feet of office space, in collaboration with the New Brunswick Development Corp., which has spearheaded several of the city’s major redevelopment projects over the past decade.
A 95,000 square-foot “Innovation Center” would provide collaborative workspaces for start-ups and other businesses that typically have just single-digit numbers of employees.
The remaining 60,000 square feet will span three stories and be available for different businesses and other institutions, the first of them being Princeton University.
State and city officials contend the project could be just the ‘shot in the arm’ needed for the economic recovery of Central Jersey and the entire state coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic next year.
“The Hub will provide numerous jobs and serve as an economic driver during and long after construction,” New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill said on Thursday. “It will forever complement the generations of research work already done,.”
The exact financing mechanism is still up in the air. Chris Paladino, DEVCO’s president, said it would fall on a “variety of funding sources, both using taxable and tax exempt financing” through “the different types of partners we have.”
State officials from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and Choose New Jersey – a non-profit government agency tasked with marketing the state abroad – would try and lure businesses into The Hub.
“Many of us are familiar with these clusters that have been proven models for creating economic development,” Kathleen Coviello, an NJEDA executive vice president, said on Thursday.
New Brunswick city and business officials, like Paladino, initially eyed The Hub as a potential site for the Amazon HQ2, but the state ended up backing Newark with $5 billion of corporate tax breaks on top of another $2 billion in subsidies from the city.