(Editor's note: Updated at 9:15 a.m. Friday with a video from the Villanova University team, below.)
The New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties invited four universities to present their proposals for a redevelopment of the Roebling industrial complex in Trenton on Tuesday.
Teams from Rutgers University, Villanova University, Lehigh University and Monmouth University were judged according to the financial feasibility of their projects, design excellence, sustainability and project goals.
“The goals of this competition, and this is the third year we’ve done it, are to educate local officials and students on development challenges out there, and to engage municipal leaders with NAIOP, with what we do and provide a fresh focus on creative design to an actual site,” Dave Gibbons, CEO and president of Elberon Development, said.
Block II, the focus of the competition, is an 8-acre site, housing seven buildings and was the center of the Roebling industrial complex, where steel cable and wires were manufactured in the city.
“For Trenton, as it advances to a new economic future, at a time where cities are a place where people want to live and where they want to work, design, as you know, is fundamental,” Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson said. “Doers, such as yourselves and these young individuals, are essential to the process of urban renewal. This site is ready for adaptive reuse, so, I’m curious tonight, what are the design ideas that you guys would bring forth to this location? What innovations should we employ to bring new life to this site and make it part of our community again?”
The team from Villanova, which consisted of Tyler Bausinger, Kiera McCloy, Austin Neri, Kaitlyn Tufariello and Joseph Vilotti, won the competition. Its proposal included the adaptive reuse of all seven existing structures for residential, retail and entertainment. The team included a six-year exit strategy with its submission.
“They really personalized it and really made for a very compelling reason to go with their proposal,” NAIOP N.J. CEO Michael McGuinness said. “If I was the mayor of Trenton, I would almost take their proposal and send it out to an RFP to developers and investors and say ‘Can you do this? What would it take for you to do this?’ ”
U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson-Coleman congratulated each team for their participation in the contest and the people of NAIOP via video.
“As student’s your work and your intellect and your drive will continue to influence and shape our landscape,” She said. “I’m proud of the work that you’re doing and I wouldn’t be surprised if Trenton becomes the model of revitalization of inner cities nationwide, because as we all know, Trenton makes and the world takes.”