By Olivia Rizzo
Social Media Editor
After a highly anticipated wait, buildings are now up, dorms are occupied by students and retail space is rented out — Campus Town is finally open for business.
Since the project was announced, students and faculty alike have been watching the progress of Campus Town build for over a year. For months, the space between Pennington Road and Metzger Drive seemed to be made of nothing but large mounds of dirt as progress on the build was delayed by the harsh winter of 2014. However, once the ground thawed and the snow melted, construction crews hit the ground running with buildings seemingly popping up overnight. Now, the first phase of the $120 million project is complete, and the College community is anxious to see Campus Town has in store.
“I feel like the project is a showcase of the College itself,” said Greg Lentine, director of university campus development for PRC Campus Centers. “It’s almost anti-climactic because every day has been crazy leading up to this. The opening is the end of all our work.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday, Aug. 19, welcoming the campus and Ewing communities to everything Campus Town has to offer. Vendors offered food samples and tours of the new buildings.
“We thought it was going to be this small, little event where a few people would show up, and now we have politicians and local businesses calling up saying they are attending,” Lentine said.
Some feel the project helps bridge the gap between the College and the larger Ewing community, Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann said at the ceremony.
“It’s about community, and it’s about The College of New Jersey and Ewing Township sharing those experiences hand-in-hand,” he said.
The College’s President R. Barbara Gitenstein shared her sentiments.
“It provides students the opportunity to live independently, study and prepare themselves to enter their profession and community as leaders and still be very close to the academic and social life of the campus proper,” Gitenstein said.
With the first phase of the project complete, 446 students will be the first tenants of the newly built Campus Town apartments. Each apartment will house one, two or four students from the College.
“I’m most excited about the fact that Campus Town is brand new and I’ll be part of the first group of people to ever stay in those buildings,” junior communications major Michael D’Angelo said.
The fully furnished apartments were completely booked three months after it was announced that students could sign up to lease the space, according to Lentine.
Along with student apartments, Campus Town has also rented space to local businesses, many of which are expected to move in within the month. The planned retail shops available are Barnes & Noble, RedBerry Frozen Yogurt, Piccolo Pronto (sister restaurant to nearby Piccolo Trattoria), Spencer Savings Bank, Mexican Mariachi Grill, Panera Bread, Yummy Sushi, Verizon Wireless, Polished Nails salon, California Tanning and Brickwall Tavern & Dining Room.
Space has also been leased by the College for a new fitness center and a new space for Campus Police, Lentine said.
“I think Campus Town will bring more excitement and easily accessible off-campus activities to the College,” senior English and women and gender studies double major Erin Shannon said. “It will be a greater incentive to stay on slower weekends.”
D’Angelo agreed that Campus Town will add something extra to the community.
“I think Campus Town will bring a tiny bit of much-needed city (aspect) to TCNJ, regardless of how small that city is,” he said. “Our campus is in the middle of nowhere, so any attraction that gives us something to do is always a plus.”
Although most of Campus Town is complete, there will still be construction happening on site as Phase II of the project is being completed. According to Lentine, two additional apartment buildings are underway and will house an additional 166 students. The goal is to rent out more retail space that will sell goods, as the restaurant slots have been filled, according to Lentine.
“You look around and see students with their families and local businesses interested in the space,” Lentine said. “It’s like Main Street U.S.A. and that’s really what we want.”