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NJCU leaders Public-private partnership a model

The lobby of NJCU's Rivet apartment building in Jersey City.-(AARON HOUSTON)

New Jersey City University senior Romina Generali is saving money by living in a building on campus at West Campus Village at University Place, which was built as part of an ongoing $400 million redevelopment project.New Jersey City University senior Romina Generali is saving money by living in a building on campus at West Campus Village at University Place, which was built as part of an ongoing $400 million redevelopment project.

“The West Campus residence hall has study rooms and computer labs, which is very different from being at home,” Generali said. “I find already that I am more productive. And living on campus saves me money and time. I was commuting prior to this and was wasting a lot of time. It was expensive if I took an Uber and if I took public transportation, it was time-intensive, sometimes taking me an hour and 45 minutes each way.”

Built through a public-private partnership, the building known as Rivet was developed by The Hampshire Cos. and Claremont Cos. in conjunction with NJCU and Jersey City.

Located at 23 University Blvd., the building houses 163 residential units ranging from 550 square feet to 1,300 square feet, with 10,000 square feet of ground-level retail space. The building features amenities including a cyber cafe with Wi-Fi access, 15,000-square-foot courtyard and yoga studio.

NJCU President Sue Henderson said she considers the public-private partnership a model for other New Jersey universities through the ability to use land assets and build educational spaces at a fraction of what they would normally cost.

Henderson said students are benefitting by getting new classroom space for the performing arts program that will enhance its quality and size &mdamdash; all without a hike in tuition.

NJCU purchased the properties of the former industrial buildings over a number of years during the administration of previous president Carlos Hernandez.

In 2012, Henderson decided to develop the properties. Developers are ground-leasing the land from NJCU with a yearly payment and building market-rate housing and retail based on a demand study, transforming 22 acres around the campus, Henderson said.

“The ground leases put together pay most all of the costs of the development of a performing arts center and classrooms for the performing arts program at NJCU,” she said.

Other pieces of the project will include a center for music, dance and theater; a ShopRite supermarket; and completion of roads and infrastructure.

“Joffrey Ballet is interested in working with us on this project,” Henderson said.

A psychology major from Newark, Generali described how the new building is helping her educational experience.

“Because of how involved I am on campus — and I have two part-time jobs on campus — I felt that the next logical step would be to live here as well and to enhance my overall experience as an undergraduate,” Generali said. “It is great to be living in a nice, modern facility, and it enables me to feel more at ease with my day-to-day schedule. It’s a unique opportunity. Students don’t have to go too far for the necessities they need, such as the gym. It’s an all-in-one resource. Students not having to take buses, trains or Ubers is a game-changer.”

Keion Jackson, a junior sociology major with a minor in African-American studies, also lives in the West Campus Village and he tells a similar story.

“It is far enough away to feel like you are away from campus, but close enough to be right there,” said Jackson, who’s from Mountain Lakes. “Community access is very important. … At University Place, it’s hotel-style living. … It’s a relaxing environment. There is a conference room, study rooms and a computer lab. 

“Another thing that is a plus is that the directors of residence life are right there. The staff are right there for you. There are practice rooms for musicians. I started out as a voice major, so the practice rooms were great. West Campus is like a city — a very active community.”

NJCU Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Aaron Aska said the project will revitalize a part of Jersey City that has not been given proper attention.

“The successful execution of these projects comes from the right partners, our president and our board of trustees,” Aska said. “They have been instrumental in executing this project. We have market-rate retails. We are the first. The city of Jersey City invested in roads, traffic lights, landscapes and the plaza. Having another public-private partnership was instrumental in developing the property.”

David Hutter
David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at: dhutter@njbiz.com.