NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Plans to build the state’s first free-standing cancer hospital - the centerpiece in a sweeping, $750 million project that will transform the Somerset Street health care corridor - has been approved by the city.
The Planning Board voted 7-0 Tuesday night to allow Cancer Pavilion Redevelopment Associates LLC, an affiliate of DEVCO, to proceed with its plan to construct the 11-story, 519,000 square foot Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Cancer Pavilion.
The Cancer Pavilion will house inpatient and outpatient care, research facilities and administrative space.
The Cancer Pavilion application received preliminary site plan approval at November’s meeting, where the condition of getting approval for another part of the project – the adjacent parking garage – was placed upon it.
The board voted 5-1 with one abstention Tuesday to approve the application by Hardenberg Street Redevelopment Associates LLC, also an affiliate of DEVCO, to build the 975-space parking garage with a central utility plant and a loading dock to serve the Cancer Pavilion.
The Cancer Pavilion will have 84 infusion bays and 74 exam rooms for outpatient care and 96 beds for inpatient care. It will also have a dedicated floor for surgical procedures.
When the plans to build the hospital were unveiled at a news conference in February 2020, Dr. Steven Libutti, the senior vice president of RWJ/Barnabus Health and director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, said the pavilion will be "one of the top 10, if not top five, cancer programs in the country.”
Under the plan, DEVCO plans to raze Lincoln Annex School and build the Cancer Pavilion in its place. The faded, beige-brick school, built in 1960, will be torn down and the hospital – designed with a handsome, red-bricked terracotta and glass façade – will be built at 165 Somerset Street.
TAPinto New Brunswick report Saturday that DEVCO had acquired the 1.67-acre tract where Lincoln Annex sits from the Board of Education. An escrow account with $55 million was set up for the Board of Education to build a replacement school on about 4.5 acres of vacant land at 50 Jersey Avenue.
Students will attend the Pathways Campus on Van Dyke Avenue until the new school is completed.
DEVCO President Chris Paladino said that it will take about three years to build the school.
Temporarily moving the students to the Pathways Campus was this part of the plan that drew the most criticism during Tuesday’s meeting.
Planning Board member Bob Cartica voted to grant Cancer Pavilion Redevelopment Associates LLC final major site plan approval, but not before he said, “Some of you members are aware that I didn’t support the proposed development at this site because of it would result in the relocation of the students from the Lincoln Annex School. Not that I have any issue with the Cancer Pavilion, I just don’t feel the school should have been relocated, the students should be relocated, especially after the city had made some pretty costly improvements to the school. But, despite my objection, the board approved this at the March 2020 meeting by majority vote and we learned last night that the Board of Education has sold or approved the sale – not sure which – of the lot that supports the Lincoln Annex School.
"So, bottom line, no way to go back. That was then, this is now. Despite what I may think about this, I have to respect the guidance of our attorney (Aravind Aithal) in accordance with the municipal land-use laws.”
Fellow board member John Petrolino also voted to approve the plan, but not before he said, “I will simply echo Bob’s sentiments. I think that was well-stated, Bob. For the same reason, I am voting yes.”
The Diocese of Metuchen sold St. Peter’s school for $7.4 million in 2013. The city spent $22 million on repairs and it was renamed Lincoln Annex.
In March, the Planning Board voted 3-2 to adopt the Healthcare and Research Pavilion Redevelopment Plan. The plan is a skeletal outline that sets the parameters and limitations for development on the site. The plan was eventually approved by the City Council.
Petrolino was the only Planning Board member to vote no to the application by Hardenberg Street Redevelopment Associates LLC. Diana Lopez voted to abstain.
Although some members of the public who spoke at Tuesday’s virtual meeting charged that the Lincoln Annex students would be sent to a “warehouse,” there were no forklifts toting drums in sight when the district gave walking tours of the Pathways Campus during a P-TECH program ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Phil Murphy in September 2019.
The school was spacious, bright, clean, freshly painted and furnished with new desks, chairs and equipment.
In subsequent meetings on the matter, whether before the Board of Education, City Council or Planning Board, objectors have erroneously claimed that the Pathways Campus doesn’t have windows, a cafeteria nor a lunchroom.