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Rowan Expansion Plans Draw Concerns

It will take six months and $6 million to transform an abandoned condo complex into the “cornerstone” of downtown Glassboro.

Mon March 09, 2015 - Northeast Edition
Carly Q. Romalino - Courier-Post of Cherry Hill

GLASSBORO, N.J. (AP) It will take six months and $6 million to transform an abandoned condo complex into the “cornerstone” of downtown Glassboro.

When the three-story Rowan University art gallery and instructional building opens in September, university President Ali Houshmand believes it will be the “anchor” of the borough’s downtown revitalization.

“We are building the quintessential cornerstone,’ Houshmand said before unveiling a rendering of 301 High Street’s future — an art gallery and home to the university’s public relations and advertising programs.

The university bought the building at High and Ellis Streets in 2013 for $440,000, according to tax records.

The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill reported the state college will spend $5.3 million to renovate the existing construction — a mere shell of a building with no interior walls, no lights, just studs and siding.

“This is going to be the anchor of really revitalizing Glassboro and making it a destination — a huge, huge boost to the town,” Houshmand added.

This is the second under-utilized High Street building Rowan has saved. This month, the university’s journalism faculty moved from its longtime headquarters at Bozorth Hall to 6 High Street — the farthest building from the college’s main Mullica Hill Road campus.

The building is leased from LTD Unlimited LLC, a company owned by former Rowan Board of Trustees member Lawrence M. DiVietro Jr.

The borough is requesting the university’s building proposals for a third High Street site, but councilman Hector Cabezas said it could be a downtown performing arts center for stage performances and film viewing with concession stands and classroom space for Rowan.

“I think arts and culture and entertainment is always an important component of a living community,” Houshmand said.

Rowan’s communications majors, though, worry the school’s plans for a vibrant downtown will mean sacrificing on-campus convenience.

“It’s a big concern,” said Lauren Mathis, a junior studying communications and journalism.

Journalism, public relations and advertising courses could be moved to 301 High Street. Journalism department faculty, including the college’s dean and advisers, are located in 6 High Street — a 15-minute or more walk from the college’s former home in Bozorth Hall.

Student-run publications, including its newspaper The Whit, also will relocate down town, according to university spokesman Joe Cardona.

“I already have trouble timing how I’m going to class from the main campus. Having to go all the way to High Street would be a big concern for me,” Mathis said.

Chelsey Fairfield, a junior who commutes, already makes more than a 10-minute trek by foot from one commuter lot at Bowe Boulevard and Carpenter Street to Bozorth. At a school long plagued by parking wars for years, she hopes spaces are available on Rowan’s now-extended campus.

“They need some type of shuttle or something,” suggested Kevin Howard, a journalism student also living off campus.

“People will definitely be there later at night for class work. Rowan’s campus is pretty safe, I just have worries about the buildings being slightly off campus.”

A shuttle system is on the table, Cardona said, but many factors add to the shuttle conversation, including an expansion of the night shuttle system and integrating the existing shuttle runs to the Camden campus. Additional downtown safety provisions also are part of the discussion, Cardona indicated.

“It was always part of the plan to make High Street an arts district, to continue the flow of the university to the downtown area,” Cabezas said.

“You have to do [Rowan Boulevard] first to draw that traffic before you do High Street.”

High Street landmarks, including 301 and Let’s Dance studio, are evidence of the mission, the councilman said.

“Those are the anchors that are going to attract people, and the smaller stores are going to benefit.”

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