NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Some unlikely officemates will form the hub of The Hub – a home base for research institutions, health care companies and technology firms that will soon begin to take shape in downtown New Brunswick.

Rutgers and Princeton, as well as RWJBarnabas Health and Hackensack Meridian Health will be the first four tenants when Phase One of the project begins this summer, Gov. Phil Murphy announced during a virtual press conference Thursday.

The words innovation and entrepreneurship were buzzwords during the event, which was attended by RWJBarnabas Health’s Barry Ostrowsky, Hackensack Meridian Health’s Bob Garrett, Rutgers’ Jonathan Holloway and Princeton’s Rodney Priestly.

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New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill, DEVCO President Chris Paladino, Assembly Speaker Chris Coughlin, New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan and Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ron Rios also participated in the event.

The primary mission of The Hub, scheduled to open in New Brunswick in 2024, will be to nurture the growth of start-up companies and new technologies in a range of industries and to support the rapid translation and real-world application of innovation so that those new ventures grow and expand the state’s economy.

Murphy is banking on The Hub’s lab-to-marketplace potential to create thousands of jobs and contribute millions of dollars into a state economy hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This project is a major step in helping New Jersey reclaim its spot at the top of the innovation economy,” Murphy said.  “With its three core partners and first institutional tenant, The Hub will allow us to harness the collective experience of two of the country’s most prestigious research universities and two of its largest healthcare systems, which will serve to revolutionize research and development in our state.”

It’s a rare day in New Jersey that Rutgers and Princeton, and RWJBarnabas Health and Hackensack Meridian Health come together at the conference table – even virtually. In fact, Coughlin referenced the rivalrous histories of the tenants when he cracked, “I just can’t wait for the intramural sports games.”

Hotly contested pickup basketball games aside, a chance to be part of the $175 million project that will rise into the New Brunswick skyline on a four-acre tract across from the New Brunswick train station proved impossible to pass up.

Today’s press conference addressed just the first phase of The Hub, a 10-story building to be built at the corner of Albany and Kirkpatrick streets.

A potential timetable for groundbreaking was not mentioned at today’s press conference, but a source has told TAPinto New Brunswick that it is expected to begin this summer.

It remains to be seen how Johnson & Johnson, Merck and many other state-based corporate giants fit into The Hub’s plans, but Murphy said there’s plenty of room for them to move in.

“The door is wide open,” Murphy said. “We’ve had conversations with them and many others like them, both big and small. And I think today, the attention today is to sort of announce the anchors. If you’ve seen where this location is - Jonathan Holloway, I’m looking at him because he probably looks at it every single day. It is a very big space. Chris Paladino is on with us from DEVCO. This is a very large footprint that can be easily, like an accordion, expanded over time with its own early success and with the participation of other partners.”

“The way we have structured the first stage of this project, we have created various levels for corporate partners to join us and participate, and those discussions are ongoing,” Paladino said.