As Ferren Mall Demolition Progresses, City Looks Toward Future

An artist's rendering of what "The Hub @ New Brunswick Station" could look like. Credits: Devco

This is the latest story in an ongoing series about the Ferren Mall redevelopment project.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The Ferren Mall and parking deck is in bad shape these days.

Each day, heavy equipment clashes with concrete and rebar as a machine jets water across the development site, smothering wayward dust. From Paterson Street, you can see an excavator jam what is now decades-old junk into trash containers. Thuds, bumps and pounds boom from the property and into some neighboring offices.

Sign Up for E-News

This controlled chaos is the result of the $4 million incremental demolition of the city parking authority’s Ferren Mall, whose remnants stand across Albany Street from the train station and between Spring and Kirkpatrick streets. The parking garage has been around since the 1950s, was expanded in the 1980s and will be gone by April, according to officials.

Although the final design of the redeveloped site is unknown, it is slated to become a transit village that includes restaurants and shops, office and research space and apartments. A development company working on the project told TAPinto New Brunswick that the city could lock down its first commercial tenants within the next year, kick-starting the site’s transformation into what officials proudly call “The Hub @ New Brunswick Station.”

“We hope that we will have completed the redevelopment process, completed demolition and have a tenant who is ready to go through the entitlement process and start construction,” said Chris Paladino, president of the New Brunswick Development Corporation (Devco), which is actively marketing the project to potential commercial tenants on behalf of the city’s parking authority.

That timeline depends on outside factors, he said. The leader is the economy and how potential big-name tenants react to its ups and downs. (“This country is going to have a new President in January,” Paladino noted. “That could be a really good thing for what we’re doing or it could … who knows?)

Then there is concern of contamination. In the early 1980s, an oil tank that served Middlesex County’s administration building spilled across the street from Ferren, polluting the land, Paladino said.

While the site of the leak was cleaned, environmental engineers must scour the Ferren property for any lingering contaminants, Paladino said. They did just that prior to the demolition and found no “significant environmental damage,” he said.

After the structure falls and exposes more land, the site will once again be analyzed. It remains unclear what engineers discover or how the testing results could affect the pace of the redevelopment project.

“We have no evidence that it’s gotten into the water table, but they’re going to evaluate that when we get there,” Paladino said. “What [remediation] usually means is just taking the dirt out.”

The city itself still needs to greenlight the redevelopment plan for the Ferren site. The Planning Board recommended the 68-page document for approval this summer, but the City Council soon tabled it over traffic concerns.

Glenn Patterson, New Brunswick’s director of planning, community and economic development, told TAPinto New Brunswick that he is looking into how he can tweak the existing street grid to accommodate the redeveloped site. While he declined to discuss specifics, Patterson aims to “make more interconnections,” meaning that both pedestrians coming from the train station and motorists will have more options for traveling to and from the site.

“There’s no easy fix to it,” he said.

Several buildings, including the one in which Clydz martini bar operates on Paterson Street, are on the site of the redevelopment plan. Patterson said the city cannot by law use eminent domain to take the properties. It’s unclear what role those buildings will ultimately play in the project, or how long negotiations to purchase the land could take.

An artist's rendering of "The Hub @ New Brunswick Station."

City officials envision “The Hub @ New Brunswick Station” as a pedestrian-first complex, with sidewalks and public spaces large enough to support outdoor cafés and small, kiosk-type restaurants, Paladino said.

High-rise buildings will likely tower over them, dedicating their first two floors to retail shops and eateries, and the rest mostly to office and research space. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 apartments—roughly 40 of them designated affordable—could also take root on the parcel.

In total, the Ferren site could hold up to 1.6 million square feet of office, research, retail and residential space, Paladino said.

What form the layout will take depends on the needs of corporate tenants. The first big signer, especially, will likely lead Devco to determine the exact number of residential units and design of the buildings, Paladino said. He said the size of the property and its proximity to Rutgers University may attract any number of businesses.

“There are not many places where we can build a 30,000-square-foot lab or a 15,000-square-foot Cheesecake Factory or House of Blues,” he said.

The Ferren redevelopment project is but the latest step in New Brunswick’s orchestrated growth around the train station. Devco and the city have already implemented the first two phases, which Paladino said represent $250 million in development: The Gateway, which stands directly next to the station and houses Rutgers’ Barnes and Noble, and the Wellness Plaza, which houses a Key Food market and Robert Wood Johnson’s health center.

Once completed, city planners believe “The Hub @ New Brunswick Station” will serve as a sort of knot to tie the area together.

“All throughout the country, these types of places are replacing the malls of the ‘70s,”
 Paladino said. “The concept is to build a place that has a lot of energy, is very pedestrian-friendly and is a destination.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In
Sun, February 25, 11:00 am
East Brunswick

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - February 23, 2018

The Jaffe Briefing Is going on Winter Break, returning Monday, March 5


 NEWARK - The Archdiocese of Newark is somehow making national news, after Cardinal Joseph Tobin sent out a tweet Wednesday that raised one or two eyebrows. Tobin tweeted "Nighty-night, baby. I love you," Hmm, people asked. Now who ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 22, 2018


TRENTON - If New Jersey raises the sales tax back to 7 percent, will anyone notice? That's the big question from New Jersey Policy Perspective, which questions last year's gimmick that cut the sales tax rate to 6.625 percent. NJ 101.5reports that tax cut equates to $2 a week in "savings" for middle-class families. Meanwhile, this ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 21, 2018


ON THE HIGHWAY - Authorities were frantically looking into a "mystery tar" that appeared suddenly on cars driving along I-295 in South Jersey, causing tires to gel with the road. They quickly realized that a stretch of the highway in Salem County was smeared with liquid asphalt, leaked from a tanker and causing dozens of cars to get ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 20, 2018


STATEWIDE - Jittery parents are sending their jittery kids to jittery schools this morning, as classes resume after a President's Day weekend filled with wall-to-wall news coverage about gun safety. School districts statewide have been reporting threats - all thankfully not credible - as district leaders are on the highest alert. East Brunswick, for ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 16, 2018


E STREET - While a tired nation is demanding gun control (yet again), Springsteen guitarist Stevie Van Zandt is having none of it. No stranger to political opinions, the New Jersey icon tweeted "What happened to us? We are averaging 2 school shootings per week AND WE DO NOTHING ABOUT IT!" Many tone-deaf politicians on Capitol Hill ...

The Jaffe Briefing - January 15, 2018


TRENTON - As state lawmakers are set to announce a bill at 11 a.m. to decriminalize pot - an issue that has consumed the Statehouse -  the Record is reporting on an often-ignored issue: the state's ridiculously antiquated liquor laws. For example, supermarkets in the state can only have up to two liquor licenses, stemming ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, February 24


Project Feeder Watch

Green Home & Garden


Sat, February 24, 2:00 PM

New Jersey Audubon's Plainsboro Preserve, Plainsboro

Family Adventures - Early Spring: Emerging ...


Sat, February 24, 2:00 PM

Edison High School Auditorium, Edison

Free community viewing of "Bag It"


Trees Have Sex? Rutgers Researchers Have All the Answers

February 22, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A few years ago, Rutgers researcher Jennifer Blake-Mahmud was working on a botany project in Virginia when colleagues pointed out a striped maple, a common tree in the understory of mountain forests from Nova Scotia to Georgia. 


“They told me, ‘We think it switches sex from year to year, but we don’t know why,’ and I said, ...

Rutgers Union Rally Planned Friday for $15 Minimum Wage

New Brunswick, NJ - On Friday, February 23, student groups, a coalition of Rutgers unions, and representatives from campuses across the nation will hold a rally and march on College Avenue to demand a $15 minimum wage.

The action, initiated by the Rutgers chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Rutgers American Association of University Professors - American Federation of ...

RU Students Rejoice: Starbucks Reopens at The Yard@College Avenue

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - In what many consider to be the biggest news of the day on the Rutgers University campus, the Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue has once again reopened.

Officials with the New Brunswick Development Corp. reported this morning that the popular coffeehouse is open "for good."

The Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue, located at the corner of College ...

Valeski: Placing Police Officers in Schools was Planned for Two Years

February 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In the midst of a media firestorm Tuesday, Dr. Victor Valeski, East Brunswick Superintendent of Schools, fielded questions from local and national journalists regarding the placement of armed police officers inside each of the district's K-12 buildings.  The move seemed to many as a "knee-jerk" reaction to the fear generated by the massacre of ...

Shouts of Racial Slurs Bring Police to Sparta Theatre

February 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta police were called to the New Vision Sparta Theater on Sunday night because of a woman shouting slurs in a screening of Black Panther.

Former New Jersey Assembly candidate Michael Grace was in the theater when two people started yelling racial slurs including “look at these ‘n-word’” and “can you believe these ...


Letter to the Editor: Low-Income Families Who Need Safe Cribs Have Nowhere to Go

February 15, 2018

One recent email came from a pastor in East Orange, sharing the struggles of a young couple who have no safe place for their baby to sleep.

Then, there was also a phone call from a Newark hospital, making its fourth request in two years, as well as a frantic text from Puerto Rico, for a family who lost everything in the hurricane.

They all pleaded for the same thing: A safe crib for a ...

Somerset Patriots Sign Frontier League All-Star RHP Randy McCurry

February 17, 2018

The Somerset Patriots have announced the signing of right-handed relief pitcher Randy McCurry for the 2018 season.

“I’m excited to play in the Atlantic League this year,” said McCurry. “It’ll be a transition for me but I am ready to face some really good competition and help the team win.”

McCurry enters his first season with the Somerset Patriots and ...