NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The development company responsible for creating the Gateway Transit Village, the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center and many other landmarks across the Hub City now has three more projects on its plate.
The New Brunswick Development Corporation was designated as the developer for the state’s first free-standing cancer hospital and an adjacent parking deck at Wednesday night’s Middlesex County Improvement Authority meeting.
DEVCO was also chosen as the developer for the final piece of the project – a $55 million school to be constructed on a 4 1/4 -acre lot at 50 Jersey Avenue.
The school will replace the Lincoln Annex School, which is slated to be razed this fall.
The 60-year-old school on Somerset Street, described by the president of the school’s PTO at a June Board of Education meeting as resembling a prison complete with exposed pipes, broken stairwells, a cramped cafeteria and little parking, will be leveled to make room for the 12-story, 510,000 square-foot hospital.
The $750 million plan will ally DEVCO, RWJ Barnabas, the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the New Brunswick Board of Education, the Middlesex County Board of Freeholders and the city itself.
DEVCO President Chris Paladino spoke briefly during Wednesday’s meeting, correcting some of the audience members who stated that the parking deck would run $65 million. Paladino said that the cost to the New Brunswick Parking Authority for the 975-space deck would be $48 million.
Activists who have been vocal about their opposition for several months once again ran through their list of objections. They range from concerns that the site on Jersey Avenue will not be properly remediated before construction commences to the inconvenience of having the 750 or so students who attend Lincoln Annex bussed to the Pathways Campus on Van Dyke Avenue while the replacement school is built.
Although some who called into the meeting continued to refer to the building as a “warehouse,” nary a conveyor belt nor forklift was in sight last September when the school district hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program attended by Gov. Phil Murphy and other county and state officials.
Officials and journalists were given tours of the building, which was bright, clean, freshly painted and furnished with new desks and tables. Although the building is oblong, it has never been used as a warehouse but has served as a temporary swing space for students from Redshaw, Robeson and New Brunswick Middle School.
About five Robert Wood Johnson medical students on Wednesday added their voices to the call to halt the project. One, a Highland Park resident, said about 235 medical students had signed a petition opposing the plan. She said they have also written emails to administrators to voice their opposition.
James P. Nolan, the chairman of the five-member authority, repeatedly had to clarify during Wednesday’s meeting that the appointed body was not in position to stop the project.
“Many of the people who commented had the impression that we had somehow, that this board had the same authority that the Board of Ed has. We do not,” Nolan said. “We don’t choose what schools get closed or what schools get built or where people get relocated to. We’re just asked to be involved in the redevelopment. Those decisions were made by elected officials of New Brunswick, people who were elected to decide, to the Board of Ed, to decide what happens with those schools. Again, we have no authority to relocate kids to different schools or to pick where they’re going to be or anything like that. We are just here to be involved in the redevelopment.”
Opponents’ attempts to stop the project have carried over into court. One lawsuit has been thrown out, and three of five counts in another have been dismissed. Vaughn McKoy, an attorney representing the Board of Education, has filed a motion of reconsideration to get a judge to dismiss the final two counts.
The Diocese of Metuchen sold St. Peter’s school to the school district for $7.4 million in 2013. The district spent $22 million on repairs and renamed it Lincoln Annex.
The Board of Freeholders voted unanimously to approve a $25 million grant to help fund the construction of the project in May.
Through the P-Tech program, 40 New Brunswick students have been immersed in STEM classes at the Pathways Campus. When they graduate in the spring of 2023, they will simultaneously be awarded a high school diploma and an associate degree.