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TCNJ's Campus Town project a blueprint for collaboration | Editorial
Times of Trenton Editorial Board
As seen on NJ.com

When was the last time you heard the three words "ahead of schedule" uttered in relation to a building project?

Officials connected to the large mixed-use complex rising at The College of New Jersey are saying the first students will be able to move into their new digs by August, with plenty of time to settle in for the academic year.

The $120 million Campus Town project in Ewing represents an unusual public-private partnership between the college and PRC Group – perhaps the ultimate in town-gown relations.

We have high hopes that the undertaking will prove beneficial to both partners.

Curt Heuring, TCNJ's vice president for administration, is also bullish on Campus Town, which will feature a fitness center, shops, restaurants and a bank, along with 612 upscale apartments of one, two or four bedrooms.

"Here's an example of when people work together and form teams for the mutual good, you get things like this project," Heuring told Christina Rojas of NJ.com. "This will be a boon to our community, our students, our faculty and our staff."

The project taking shape at the edge of the campus near the School of Business will serve two diverse purposes.

It will answer a longtime demand for student housing at the college, and it will also be an attractive venue for residents of surrounding neighborhoods.

If the 11,400-square-foot fitness center doesn't draw them, those residents will come for Panera Bread, Mexican Mariachi Grill or the RedBerry Frozen Yogurt, among other retailers. Or they'll browse the shelves of the enormous Barnes & Noble, with its in-house Starbucks.

The presence of restaurants is a bonus for workers who populate the 1 million square feet of office space less than a mile away, who can easily stroll over during lunchtime for a bite to eat.

Heuring calls Campus Town the "perfect interaction space" where the college and greater community intersect. We call it a model for other colleges in the state, which can foster strong ties with their host towns while educating the state's best and brightest.

In fact, Greg Lentine, PRC's director of university campus development, says a number of colleges and universities have approached him to explore entering into similar public-private partnerships.

One major advantage to such a relationship: PRC assumes the financial risk of the project without imposing a burden on the college or on taxpayers.

Campus Town offers a world of promise as TCNJ heads into the 2015-2016 school year. Our fingers are crossed that all goes as planned.