The Glassboro Planning Board approved the preliminary site plan for the next phase of Rowan Boulevard, presented during its Jan. 19 meeting.
The green light was given after nearly two hours of discussion, during which developer Nexus Properties introduced plans to build three mixed-use structures and an 868 spot parking garage on what is currently being called the A3 Development Site. Construction will begin this spring on the nearly empty plot of land at the end of Rowan Boulevard. Demolition of a few remaining structures on the site is already underway.
Nexus Properties, which owns 220 Rowan Boulevard, was selected by the borough from a pool of developers who submitted requests to build on the site.
Architect Kevin Blackney of Blackney Hayes Architects and Civil Engineer Andrew Hugg of Land Dimensions Engineering spoke in detail about the proposed layout for the A3 site. All three of the buildings will contain ground floor retail space. In an alteration from the original Rowan Boulevard master plan, Nexus is seeking to create a fitness center in one of the areas that was originally slated to become retail space. The company said it wishes to make the new gym open to all Rowan Boulevard residents including university students.
The first building to be constructed, known as A3A, will be six floors and contain 413 student beds. This building will have a student entrance off of Victoria Avenue to allow all ground level space facing Rowan Boulevard to be devoted to retail. The A3A building is expected to be ready before classes start in the fall of 2017.
The four-story A3C structure will contain ground level retail, 47 student beds, and a number of university classrooms. The architecture of this building will be notably different than the rest of Rowan Boulevard. The proposed design drew concern from some planning board members including George Stevenson, who said the building looks like “some kind of affordable housing project.” Blackney defended the A3C design by stating that classrooms require a different window design than residential buildings. This building’s plan was approved but under the condition that Nexus agree to consider an alternative color scheme.
The final building to be completed in the A3 phase is the A3B building. This structure will be four stories tall and contain ground level retail with market-rate apartments on the upper floors. This building will be finished five-to-six months after the first A3A student apartment house is completed.
The building will overlook what will soon be the Glassboro Town Square. The square will be a public park located near the end of Rowan Boulevard at the corner of High Street and Main Street. It will combine greenery and a performance area, and is expected to be ready this summer.
Of concern to members of the borough planners was parking for the new buildings. At numerous points, the planning board attempted to get Nexus to nail down parking rates for the new garage—something the company refused to do. However, the company stated that they plan to discourage students from bringing cars to campus with higher prices than the current Rowan University parking rate, which they believe is not high enough to discourage most students from bringing a car to campus.
According to plans, the new garage will only contain enough parking spaces for 60 percent of students living in the new apartments. This number was chosen because Nexus has observed that at the current Rowan Boulevard properties only 55 to 60 percent of students bring cars to campus. Like the current Rowan Boulevard garage, the new one will contain free short-term retail parking.
In addition to parking, traffic concerns were a major sticking point at the meeting. Planning board member Joe D’Alessandro was concerned that the location of the garage entrance on Mick Drive would cause a bottleneck at the intersection of Main and High Street, and exacerbate the issue of people cutting through residential neighborhoods to avoid university traffic on Route 322. As a condition of approval, Nexus agreed to work with Borough Engineer Mark Brunermer on a traffic study.
Nexus also won bids to build the final phase of Rowan Boulevard (A4) and a new theater on High Street. While the plans for A4 are still tentative, the theater will include a restaurant, three Rowan theater labs and a new TV studio for the Rowan Television Network. The top two floors will contain 36 student apartments managed by Rowan housing.
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