NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Jack Morris, a prominent developer whose Edgewater Properties has left a wide imprint across the city and beyond, will be donating 4 1/2 acres of land that will become the home for a new school.
The tract at 50 Jersey Ave. had become the linchpin in a sweeping, $750 million project that is partnering RWJ/Barnabas, the city and DEVCO, New Brunswick’s private development firm.
When the Board of Education last week agreed to a land transfer deal with DEVCO involving Lincoln Annex School on Somerset Street, it set in motion a plan that includes the school to be razed and the state’s first free-standing cancer hospital to be built in its place.
A steering committee made up of staff members, administrators, parents and others identified 50 Jersey Ave. as a preferred site for a replacement school.
How DEVCO was going to obtain that site was unclear until Wednesday afternoon’s virtual news conference called to announce Middlesex County’s $25 million investment into the project.
Barry Ostrowsky, President and CEO of RJW/Barnabas Health, revealed during the news conference that Morris would donate the land for the project.
It’s the final piece of the plan that was put in motion last spring when the proposed Cancer Pavilion was first unveiled at a news conference. Many of the same people who participated in Wednesday’s news conference, including Ostrowsky, DEVCO President Chris Paladino, New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Director Dr. Steven Libutti and Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald Rios, were on hand last May when the project was announced.
At the time, no specific location was divulged for the new pavilion, but it was stressed that the hospital would have to be built near Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital, PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in the medical campus along the Somerset Street corridor.
Cahill said Wednesday that the construction of a cancer hospital that will tower 200 feet into New Brunswick’s burgeoning skyline and will accommodate some 20,000 additional cancer patient visits a year is more vital than ever.
“I can’t help but think as we watch the number of our neighbors throughout New Jersey who have passed away from the coronavirus, as of this writing somewhere around 8,000, people look as they should to implement with lightning speed any and all measures we can as a united community to eradicate the virus and resulting loss of life,” he said. “As a community and with this partnership, we owe a similar sense of urgency to the 16,000 New Jerseyans who died each year from cancer.”
Not only will the cancer pavilion save lives, but officials said it will also offer career and education opportunities.
Mark McCormick, president of Middlesex County College, said Wednesday the county’s partnership with the program “will afford our community college students unparalleled access to a wide range of learning opportunities at a world-class oncology center, from clinical and internship placements to research experiences.
“Such experiences will help prepare MCC graduates exciting and rewarding careers in health care and the life sciences and open doors for employment opportunities.”
At a news conference with Cahill, Paladino and Libutti in February, it was revealed that the cancer pavilion would be connected by a bridge over Somerset Street to the Cancer Institute. A second bridge would connect it to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
With outpatient care that would include 84 infusion bays and 74 exam rooms and inpatient care that would feature 96 beds and a dedicated floor for surgical procedures, Libutti said the pavilion would be "one of the top 10, if not top 5, cancer programs in the country."
Paladino said construction on the hospital will begin in late September or early October.
Construction is expected to be completed by 2023.
“At times I may be prone to a bit of hyperbole, but this will be our greatest accomplishment to date,” Paladino said Wednesday. “World-class cancer care, cutting-edge research and the development of a new, state-of-the-art school for the community at no cost to the taxpayer at a time when there is no state support for urban education facilities – it really is a public policy trifecta.”
Calls left by TAPinto New Brunswick seeking comment from Morris were not immediately returned.