NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The barren expanse of land across from the train station will soon be transformed into an "ecosystem to foster innovation" by corporations and other new tenants who will stimulate the city's economy, according to Chris Paladino, the president of the New Brunswick Development Corporation.

In an exclusive interview with TAPinto New Brunswick Paladino said he is hopeful that construction will start at the downtown project dubbed The Hub within a year.

And although he stopped short of announcing who the partners will be in the first phase of construction, he said the full build-out could have an international flavor.

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Paladino said he envisions the 1.7 million square foot tract of land becoming a mixed-use space reminiscent of other hotspots nationally where academic, medical and corporate partners have intersected to drive economic success. In New Brunswick's case, potential tenants would take up residence in a city that's already home to Rutgers University, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, St. Peter's University Hospital, Johnson & Johnson and others.

Development in locales such as Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Mass. - places that like New Brunswick are surrounded by one or more major universities and vast hospital networks - could serve as blueprints.

"We are pretty optimistic that we're going to turn this into a real job-creation engine," Paladino said. "I will tell you, recently we were at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Massachusetts and in the last seven years, 3,000 jobs have been created by the startups that they have generated out of that entity."

Paladino also said he believes "some partners in this will end up being some major corporate entities who will want to co-locate and be part of that ecosystem, much you find in Cambridge and much like you find in the city of Philadelphia."

Those entities could come from across the state and/or across the ocean, he said.

Paladino, who led a contingent of political and corporate leaders on a fact-finding trip to Ireland last month, said Rutgers entered into a number of tentative partnerships with universities there on shared research programs. More progress might come from those meetings in the coming months.

"We're talking to Enterprise Ireland, which is the government, not-for-profit-based company that helps support Irish companies that are interested in relocating to the United States," he said. "We met with a number of medical device companies, small companies that are very interested in access to the markets here both from a testing standpoint and product testing standpoint."

Paladino said that help attracting tenants could come from Gov. Phil Murphy, who is heading to India on a seven-day, six-city economic tour in September.

"The Governor continues to talk to major academic institutions around the world to have them interested in the project and I think we are getting traction with research institutes around the world who are not only interested in New Jersey but also New Brunswick," Paladino said.

According to website for The Hub, the four-acre redevelopment site will feature flexible, built-to-suit capabilities. The plans for The Hub @ New Brunswick Station as it is formally called include on-site parking. There is also a mention of a skybridge linking the site to the train station.

Devco is a private nonprofit urban real estate development company founded in the mid-1970s to serve as a catalyst for the city's revitalization. Since its inception, Devco has overseen nearly $1.6 billion of investment in New Brunswick, according to its website.

Although reports of construction on the former Ferren Mall site date back to 2014, Paladino characterized the project as being "right on track."