Heldrich Redevelopment Project, New Brunswick
Smart Growth Awards Category: Mixed-Use Downtown Anchor
Winner: New Brunswick Development Corporation; The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers; Keating Urban Partners
The mixed-use Heldrich Redevelopment Project, which opened in March 2007, is emblematic of New Brunswick’s successful redevelopment strategies.
Over the past 30 years, the city and its nonprofit development partner, New Brunswick Development Corporation (Devco), have used creative public and private resources to revitalize the city’s cultural center, government district and downtown core and promote institutional expansion. The Heldrich, which functions as an anchor for downtown New Brunswick, helps promote these economic development goals and has already leveraged an additional $600 million in planned investments.
The 365,000-square-foot project, which has had an estimated 40,000 visitors since it opened, contains a 248-room hotel, a 50,000-square-foot conference center, academic space for Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, ground-floor retail, restaurants, 54 underground parking spaces and 48 market-rate condominiums. The hotel and conference center share an adjacent, jointly constructed 820-space parking facility with other redevelopment projects and public uses of the area. Moreover, the Heldrich rehabilitated the 150-year-old Monument Park that it faces.
The Heldrich is well-situated in a smart-growth location adjacent to the city’s performing arts venues—the State Theater, George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theater—as well as Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, the Rockoff Hall University Apartments, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey administrative headquarters and the Civic Square building, which houses county and local offices. The Heldrich is also well-served by transit: the New Brunswick train station is only 1,500 feet away, and it is served by several major NJ TRANSIT and Suburban Transit bus lines and the Rutgers University bus system.
Because of its location, diverse mix of uses and orientation toward the street (e.g. its outdoor dining), the Heldrich has raised the activity level of one of the key sections of the city’s downtown area. The Heldrich has not only benefited New Brunswick as a location of new activity, but has also brought a considerable number of construction and permanent jobs to New Brunswick and Middlesex County.
Through the assistance of and collaboration with arts institutions including the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the New Brunswick Historical Society, the Heldrich has also become a cultural destination. The more than 850 pieces of art from New Jersey artists that are installed throughout the facility help celebrate New Jersey art and artists and provide recognition for key historic figures from New Brunswick’s long and varied history.
The public, which was informed about the redevelopment plans through hearings, council meetings and other means, has supported the block’s revitalization, which was formerly the site of a blighted hotel. Devco’s emphasis on regular communication and fair compensation allowed for the smooth relocation of the tenants and businesses that had previously owned portions of the site, and required no court action.
Due to the complexity of its financing, partnerships and land assemblage, the $120 million project took 10 years from the concept stage through completion. Its creative financing scheme used capital primarily from tax-exempt bonds, as well as loans, grants and appropriations from various public and private entities.
Additional project contributors: City of New Brunswick; Middlesex County Improvement Authority; Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey