NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Thursday’s virtual press conference hosted by Gov. Phil Murphy trumpeted to the world that the foundation has been laid for a sprawling ecosystem for start-up companies, major research institutions and tech conglomerates.

Although The Hub will eventually rise from a four and a half acre tract downtown, its benefits will be felt from Esperanza to Edgebrook and every other part of the city, Mayor Jim Cahill said.

He cited job creation both during The Hub’s construction and when it reaches full build-out as obvious advantages to the city – the entire city.

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“Everything that we do in the city, or economic development, advances a whole lot of purposes that go beyond the brick and mortar construction,” Cahill said. “It creates educational opportunities for our people. They can oftentimes create housing opportunities, which this project may very well include in a second phase. There are economic opportunities, both from job creation as well as for income that comes to the city of New Brunswick.”

Cahill also pointed out that construction of The Hub is expected to generate resources will go into the city’s coffers and help fund various social services offered in New Brunswick.

Cahill and Murphy were joined by several other officials and dignitaries Thursday in unveiling many of the details of the first phase of The Hub’s construction. The project has been years in the making, going back to before the Ferren Mall parking deck was torn down in 2017.

The closest  thing to a bombshell to come out of Thursday’s virtual press conference was the revelation that traditional rivals Rutgers and Princeton, as well as Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas Health, would be the first four tenants in the $175 million, 10-story building.

Although it could be assumed Cahill acted as an intermediary for New Brunswick-based RWJBarnabas and Rutgers and the others, he declined to take credit for bringing them together when he spoke to TAPinto New Brunswick on Friday.

Cahill indicated that there wasn’t much arm twisting involved in bringing the four entities together.

“What was relatively easy to see is that the leaders of these institutions understood readily that working together, that this was not a competitive mode, but rather one where the shared benefit of working together was going to make each of the institutions stronger,” he said. “And more importantly, to their credit, not just looking at themselves, and their own institutions in an in isolation that they were going to make for a better world.”

In many ways, Chris Paladino has been the driving force behind The Hub.

The president of the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) has created a vision for The Hub after visiting similar ones near (Philadelphia and suburban Massachusetts) and far (Israel).

“We came to the conclusion that we should really take the most powerful components in the innovation space that we have, that being our two big research universities and our two mega healthcare systems,” Paladino said. “We've basically harnessed our two universities that have over a billion dollars worth of sponsored research on an annual basis, we have two hospital systems that have tens of thousands of physicians and clinicians, and treat over six million patients across a very wide demographic.

“What we found when we looked at these types of enterprises, across the country and around the world, they're led by the healthcare community, often they're led by research universities, often their consortiums of private enterprise. Basically, we created our own New Jersey version of an innovative enterprise.”

The promise of having, say, startup companies partnering with the engineering school on medical devices for the next generation of diagnostic radiology, is a hopeful thought during a time when New Brunswick and municipalities around the state are coping with economies hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paladino said the 10-story, 210,000-square-foot building that will be constructed in The Hub’s first phase will be home to about 800 workers.

“That’s 800 people who could potentially be renting apartments, going out to dinner and going to the theater as part of our broader New Brunswick ecosystem,” Paladino said. “But what this is really going to do is it's going to attract pharma, biotech and technology, companies that are that are in the artificial intelligence space to want to be part of the larger development program.

“On the first four acres, we can build 1.7 million square feet and then other parcels throughout the city, we could build an additional two million square feet. This site when built out will be this building, will probably be at least one, maybe two, other office and/or laboratory buildings, a residential component with retail. So, we're creating an entirely new mixed-use district.”

The City Council on Wednesday passed Ordinance O-112004 to borrow $6.75 million to fund “a deficit in operations.” The shortfall has been attributed to circumstances related to COVID-19. It was also expected that the New Brunswick Parking Authority would suffer a shortfall at its various parking decks around the city.