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EDA votes to help New Brunswick, Camden projects

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The New Jersey Economic Development Authority today approved $350 million in bond financing for a major redevelopment of Rutgers University's College Avenue campus, in New Brunswick.

The project, which is being constructed by New Brunswick Development Corp., entails the purchase of five acres from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary and the construction of a new academic building; an honors college — including housing for 500 honors students — and a separate, 520-bed student apartment building.

"This redefines Rutgers," said Christopher J. Paladino, Devco's president. "College Avenue has always been a challenge. It's never really had the presence that most major state universities have."

Paladino said the new honors college will rival those at other Big 10 universities, like the University of Wisconsin, the University of Michigan and Penn State University. He said the housing will also allow students to move out of neighborhood houses, freeing up that housing stock for middle-class families.

The project was one of three approved last month for a $33 million award under EDA's competitive Urban Transit Hub residential program. Paladino said the project will be on the agenda for the Rutgers board of governors meeting next month for some final procedural approvals. Preliminary abatement and demolition will begin in June, with parts of the project set for completion in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The meeting marked the first regular meeting since EDA launched its federally funded grant program for small businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy. Since May 1, agency CEO Michele Brown said 520 online applications have been started for the program. Seventy-one have been submitted.

"We're working through our individual business advisers with each of these businesses to assist them in finalizing their forms," she said.

The program received $260 million in federally funding, and individual awards are capped at $50,000, meaning the program could help more than 5,000 businesses.

So far, Brown said the bulk of the applications have come from Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Hudson counties — no surprise, since those areas bore the brunt of the storm.

"We're working hard to get our first grants out the door before the end of the month," she said.

In other business, the EDA approved assistance for a number of projects in Camden. The board agreed to a memorandum of understanding under which it will assist the state treasury in selling the former Riverfront State Prison for redevelopers. The board approved a $750,000 planning grant for Cooper's Ferry Partnership Inc. for engineering and design work at the prison site. The board also voted to give a $1 million loan to a for-profit spin-off of the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, in Camden. The spin-off, Coriell Life Sciences, is expected to create 26 jobs.

Thursday's agenda included two Business Employment Incentive Program grants. The first went to South Plainfield-based Genewiz Inc., which was approved for $299,322 over 10 years if it expands in South Plainfield, as opposed to a site in Horsham, Pa. The other BEIP grant was awarded to PVH Corp., an apparel company that owns brands such as Van Heusen, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod. The Bridgewater-based firm recently purchased The Warnaco Group Inc., which owns the Speedo, Warner's and Olga brands. PVH is considering moving 125 Warnaco jobs from Connecticut to Bridgewater. The EDA vote means they'll be eligible to receive $720,313 if they choose New Jersey.

The EDA also approved its annual report for 2012. The report shows the agency finalized $698 million in financing assistance, business incentives and tax credits for 228 projects last year. That money will leverage $1.4 billion in investment, enough to create 4,820 new permanent jobs, 3,030 construction jobs. EDA also estimates nearly 11,000 jobs deemed to be "at risk" of leaving the state were retained.

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