State and city officials broke ground Oct. 14 on a highly anticipated project for a long-empty tract of prime real estate in downtown New Brunswick.
The New Jersey Innovation and Technology Hub is a $665 million, 550,000-square-foot medical education and research center. Rutgers and Princeton universities both plan to use the facility, along with Hackensack Meridian Health and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
“It is ambitious and it is aggressive,” Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said at the groundbreaking ceremony in New Brunswick. “It is fundamental to how we will deliver knowledge and make discoveries and revolutionize the ways we provide health care and medicine.”
“When like-minded partners come together to support innovation, we will build a stronger New Jersey together,” said Robert Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, in a statement. “In health care, the need for collaboration has never been greater. As we have learned in battling COVID-19, when we combine our extraordinary capabilities, we strengthen our communities.”
“At RWJBarnabas Health, we are incredibly proud to support the efforts of our academic partner, Rutgers University, as it expands its capabilities through this new exciting initiative,” said Barry Ostrowsky, the president and CEO of RWJBarnabas Health. “By broadening its participation in the NJ Innovation & Technology Hub, Rutgers will further galvanize its national leadership position in the areas of research and discovery.”
The site was formerly the Ferren Mall across the street from the New Brunswick Train Station which opened in 1982. It was later abandoned; its demolition was completed in 2017.
“You must recognize that the mall was built at a time when the city of New Brunswick was really fortunate-thinking, that if we could get somebody on their way to the train station and get them to buy a cup of coffee or drop off their dry-cleaning or get an ice cream cone, we were doing a good job,” New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill said at the event. “But New Brunswick has transformed and it is now a destination.”
The project would also include an incubator for startups, providing workspaces and exposure to both potential investors and mentors from those four institutions. That means open office space, studios and workspaces, wet and dry labs, and conference facilities, as well as an auditorium, cafes, and ground floor market.
“The Hub will be that rare standalone center where clinicians and researchers from across the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors can have immediate and daily access to academic and industry experts as they fine-tune their advances,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at the groundbreaking ceremony.