Education

Plainfield's UCC Campus Growing, Seeks Greater City Identity

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L-R: Robert Hogan, Horace Walker, Bryan VanderGheynst Credits: Bernice Paglia
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Members of the Plainfield Planning Board Credits: Bernice Paglia
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Horace Walker describes new facade. Credits: Bernice Paglia
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College District (CD), center Credits: Bernice Paglia

PLAINFIELD, NJ - The Union County College branch in Plainfield is growing, Facilities Director Robert Hogan said at Thursday's Planning Board meeting where Hogan and two architects discussed a new parking lot and future plans.

Hogan said the Plainfield campus has 690 students, ten more than last year and including 20 new full-time, first-time students, while other UCC campuses are experiencing declines.

"Plainfield is a unique opportunity," he said, naming Health Sciences programs that he said were "set to expand."

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What's needed, he said, is more of an identity here as a college.

Planning Director William Nierstedt said the city has already designated a "College District" on its Zoning Mappdf.  It includes the branch's main location at Church Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

Nierstedt said the city will be revising its master plan and asked Hogan to share the college's master plan.

"We look forward to Union County College expansion," he said. "We just want to know in what direction."

The parking lot plans already showed cooperation between the city and college, as they contained elements consistent with the existing downtown streetscape, such as historic lamp design and brick-patterned walkways. Architect Bryan VanderGheynst said the number of stalls was reduced from 130 to 105 to incorporate the streetscape improvements.

The lot is adjacent to the former Thul Auto Parts store that the college acquired after the Thul family closed its operations, including Thul Machine Works, in Plainfield. The company had been in the city since 1913. The former store now has classrooms for health-related studies.

Trees will be planted every 40 feet around the lot and it will include a pedestrian plaza next to the building. VanderGheynst called the plaza "a nice, warm open space" for gatherings. He also proposed a large "monument" sign at the lot to identify the college.

The board also discussed lighting, drainage, refuse disposal, accessibility and other aspects of the parking lot. Nierstedt said the City Council will have to vote on approval of a proposed loading zone for pickup of recyclables. A construction schedule calls for completion of the parking lot renovation in time for the school opening in September 2018.

The estimated cost for the lot improvements is $850,000 and Hogan said he believes Union County will be the funding source. The board unanimously approved the plans.

Architect Horace Walker used aerial views and photographs to describe future plans, such as fitting out two more buildings and unifying the facades on Roosevelt Avenue with metal cladding. He said he will return to the board later with a more developed plan, aiming for occupancy by January 2019.

Among the buildings acquired by the college is the former Iggy Magoo's restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue at East Third Street. Hogan said he hoped to use it for storage, though board members asked him to check it for historic artifacts first.

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