As the name might suggest, Campus Town is meant to serve both The College of New Jersey and Ewing Township.So while its mix of one-, two- and four-bedroom apartments were built exclusively for TCNJ students, the complex in Ewing is home to retailers that will be open to students and area residents alike. That’s why developer PRC Group took pains to make the property inviting from two distinct vantage points — the side that faces the TCNJ campus to the east and Route 31 to the west.
“The big question is: How do retailers survive just on college students when they’re gone four months of the year?” said Greg Lentine, PRC Group’s director of university campus development. “So what we did along 31 was we made it very attractive and accessible to the public.”
It was just one consideration for the West Long Branch-based developer as part of the $120 million Campus Town project. And while the property is providing housing for 446 TCNJ students, who moved in last month as part of the first residential phase, it’s also introducing a new mix of retailers to the Mercer County township.
That includes national stores such as Barnes & Noble, which operates TCNJ’s new 14,000-square-foot campus book store, and Verizon Wireless. That’s not to mention new locations for regional operators such as Mexican Mariachi Grill and RedBerry Frozen Yogurt.
And, somewhat unexpectedly, it’s providing an opportunity for expansion for businesses that are not based in the area. Take Spencer Savings Bank, which is headquartered in Elmwood Park, and the Brick Wall, a popular Asbury Park tavern and restaurant that plans to open in one of the residential buildings; when it came to the latter, Lentine said the deal simply resulted from a business relationship with a law firm that represents the ownership of the Shore-area establishment.
“I had about six different sports bars and brew pubs, and we never got anywhere with them,” Lentine said. “And these guys came in, did their research and said, ‘We want to be here’ — and they took the whole building.”
Campus Town, which will include a second residential phase, is a public-private partnership with TCNJ under a law that allows state colleges and universities to partner with developers on state-owned land. That’s one big selling point for the college, allowing it to upgrade its facilities without taking on the risk of construction and financing.
For the Ewing community, the project represents a slew of new amenities and retail offerings. Aside from public outreach during the development process, PRC Group hopes let residents know Campus Town is open for business through its design: the property, designed by Feinberg & Associates, has the type of brick architecture that blends well with the TCNJ campus, but also multiple facades, awnings and the overall feel of a town square.
“We had to design four sides of our buildings to be fronts,” Lentine said, later adding: “So we made it very inviting for the public to come in because we know the retailers need more than just students.”