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Developer, TCNJ expanding Campus Town project — before it even opens

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The nine-building, mixed-use Campus Town project at TCNJ.
The nine-building, mixed-use Campus Town project at TCNJ. - ()

PRC Group is fast at work on its new nine-building, mixed-use Campus Town project at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, with students slated to move in ahead of the upcoming fall semester.

By then, however, the West Long Branch-based developer will have already started an expansion of the project. That’s because the nearly 450 beds available under the initial phase were leased in less than three months — prompting PRC and TCNJ to add 166 beds to the project.

The work, which will include the addition of two buildings, is expected to be complete by fall 2016. And it will put PRC’s investment for the project at $120 million.

“It shows that if you build quality housing — something that the students want — that they will take the housing,” said Greg Lentine, PRC Group’s director of university campus development. “Students today are used to a higher level of housing, especially in New Jersey, and we’re building (what are) basically apartments.”

RELATED: Campus Town is taking shape at TCNJ: A Q&A with the developer

It’s validation for one of the many development projects underway at New Jersey’s higher education campuses. Campus Town, which broke ground in fall 2013, is a public-private partnership made possible by a 2009 state law that allows private developers to come onto college land at their own risk and build a project that the institution needs.

TCNJ has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,700 and only 4,000 available beds on campus.

“Our public-private partnership with the PRC Group allows us to address a critical need for additional student housing without utilizing state or college funding,” TCNJ President R. Barbara Gitenstein said in a prepared statement. “The retail shops and restaurants that will open this summer with Phase One will benefit not only members of our campus community, but also the town and residents, making this project a real win-win for both the TCNJ and Ewing communities.”

Lentine said seven of the buildings from the initial phase are nearing completion on the 12-acre site. The second phase will add 74,000 square feet of fully furnished residential space to the existing 278,000 square feet of overall mixed-use space.

RELATED: How The College of New Jersey found a partner to complete a much-needed upgrade on campus

That includes about 80,000 square feet of retail, which has been leased to anchors such as Barnes & Noble and Panera, plus stores such as Spencer Savings Bank and a host of eateries.

Leasing for the first phase opened to students in August, and Lentine said the demand was fueled by word of mouth and social media. Also noteworthy: Students initially wanted one- and two-bedroom units, but that changed as the demand grew.

“Once students started finding out their friends were going to live there, they started getting together and switching to the four-bedroom units,” he said. “With the four-bedroom, they have the public areas where they can be with their friends and socialize, but if they want to be alone, they can go into their bedroom and shut their door to have privacy.”

The second phase of development also includes a redesign of the main entrance to TCNJ’s campus, PRC Group said. This work will enhance and unify the college’s appearance along Pennington Road, or Route 31, with new landscaping, gateways, banner poles, fencing and signage.

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