A unique partnership
NJCU public-private development would help keep tuition costs down
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Oct 08, 2017 | 1682 views | 0 0 comments | 76 76 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New Jersey City University broke ground on the second of four buildings providing an alternative way of funding the school. Officials and business people gathered to dig in with their shovels.
New Jersey City University broke ground on the second of four buildings providing an alternative way of funding the school. Officials and business people gathered to dig in with their shovels.
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A groundbreaking last month marked the next step in a project that promises to transform the western side of Jersey City. On Sept. 20, New Jersey City University began building the second of four mixed-use buildings.

“Last September [2016], we celebrated our student residence hall,” said Sue Henderson, president of NJCU, pointing to the building behind her, “which is 98 percent full. We also broke ground on another building by Claremont, a 200,000 square foot $50 million apartment building, which will have 153 apartments and 151 parking spaces. Today, we are breaking ground on the second of our residential buildings.”

This aspect of a $400 million overall development on property between West Side Avenue and Route 440 is a private-public partnership led by KKF University Enterprises LLC, which will construct two of the four residential buildings.

The ground breaking marks the second of four proposed residential buildings. These two buildings combined will have 301 market rate apartments, more than 11,000 square feet of commercial space on West Side Avenue, and parking for 303 cars.

The first of the four buildings is expected to be completed in 2018.

“Today, we’re revitalizing our city’s west side,” said Sue Henderson, president of NJCU.

The market rate residential will provide funding that will allow the university to hold down the cost of tuition for students. “This is a game changer. This is a collaboration that was conceived more than a decade ago.”

It began as an idea by NJCU to find an innovative way to fund the school without increasing tuitions and the debt students can sometimes incur for their education.

The partners involved in the development are responsible for assembling their own financing, Henderson said, and to produce a project that benefits both the university and the public.

Future construction will bring additional shops, a supermarket and other retail amenities, along with on-street parking and garages.

Also planned are academic and non-academic facilities, including a center for the performing arts.

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“I think Jersey City’s future and NJCU’s future in many ways go hand in hand.” – Mayor Steven Fulop

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Enabled by a tax abatement change

A change in state law allows the city to give tax abatements to private developers working with colleges, even though colleges like NJCU are tax-exempt entities, officials said. This is a tradeoff to state colleges whose state aid has been shrinking over the last decade. The abatements make it possible to offset some of the costs of construction.

The project has already received some tax relief from the state Economic Development Authority, but the abatements would help make the private development possible. NJCU is leasing the 21 acres to private developers for about 50 years and the revenue from those leases will pay the mortgage on a performance art building with two theaters, 16 practice rooms, classrooms and a dance space.

NJCU came to an agreement with the private developers last year, and is ready to kick off other aspects of the project. The abatements offered will give the developers two years to complete the work. Four separate abatements will be staggered in eight month intervals, starting with the first phase scheduled to start this August.

Also included in the current project is a public plaza which will be open to the public but maintained by the university. This will host a number of public and university events including concerts, a farmers market, cultural activities, and graduations.

Mayor Steven Fulop said this project marks a new direction for NJCU, and involved city council partners that helped make the project possible.

“I think Jersey City’s future and NJCU’s future in many ways go hand in hand,” Fulop said, noting that a 95-acre development partnership with Honeywell across Route 440 and the NJCU project mark a new beginning for the city’s west side.

Freeholder Bill O’Dea said the growth of the university under Henderson’s tutelage is amazing, noting also that the area is filled with under-used warehouses and others that will be transformed by the NJCU development into something more productive.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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