At the turn of the millennium, Glassboro had hit bottom, its middle class virtually gone and its downtown in disrepair. The town’s lone beacon of hope was the $100 million that industrialist Henry Rowan had donated in 1992 to Glassboro State College, a commuter school known mostly as a teachers’ college, but suddenly with a mission to expand.
Twenty years later, Glassboro’s faded downtown and its expanded campus, now known as Rowan University, are being physically linked by a $300 million redevelopment project called Rowan Boulevard. “It is changing the whole aspect of the town of Glassboro and Rowan,” says Heather Simmons, a Gloucester County freeholder.
The 26-acre development connecting High Street in Glassboro with the university will include a Marriott Courtyard hotel and conference center, a new building for Rowan’s school of continuing education, student housing, a multilevel garage and plenty of new retail space.
The development already has begun to transform student life in Glassboro (population 18,626). Apartments for more than 884 students and a two-story Barnes & Noble Collegiate Superstore opened late in 2010. This spring, additional retail tenants will begin operations in the new mixed-use Whitney Center, which already houses 280 honors students.
“This is the demographic we always wanted—college age and in their 20s, but also sophisticated,” says Nina Reses. She and her husband, Gary, are moving their kitschy boutique, Forever Young Emporium, from the warren of high-end stores and restaurants on Kings Highway in Haddonfield to the Whitney Center, about 10 miles south on I-295.
The first of several eateries, Prime Burger, opened last June in the Whitney Center, followed by Green Zebra, a wrap-and-salad spot that opened in November. A yogurt place and a coffee shop are slated to start serving soon.
This spring, the town will tear down a defunct gas station—the last of the High Street eyesores—clearing the way for a green space with an amphitheater and fountains as the formal entrance to Rowan Boulevard.
The development has inspired a similar plan adjacent to the College of New Jersey in Ewing, where planners hope new retail and student housing will make the state school more of a stay-around campus.
“We now have students at Rowan who want to be on campus all the time, not driving home after classes,” says Simmons. “And we will have a virtually new downtown. It is just a win-win-win.”Click here to leave a comment