Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


Expanding an Anchor Institution in Trenton

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Project Name: Thomas Edison State College Campus Investment Program, Trenton
Multi-site initiative to expand an anchor institution’s role in revitalizing our capital city

Partners: Thomas Edison State College; Clarke Caton Hintz; City of Trenton

Smart-Growth Challenge: How can an anchor educational institution expand and upgrade in order both to serve its students and to catalyze economic revitalization in its host city?

Thomas Edison State College has been an important civic presence in downtown Trenton since 1979, when it moved into the landmark Kelsey Building and began its expansion into other buildings in the city’s Statehouse Historic District. Its renovation of those townhouses and other nearby buildings have made a significant positive impact to the downtown.

The college has continued to seek ways to expand, with the dual goals of advancing its core mission and contributing to the revitalization of the city. It worked with Trenton-based architecture and planning firm Clarke Caton Hintz to develop a campus master plan that would enable it to expand its programs and increase its positive impact on the downtown area. Two key sites were identified, both serving as gateways to the area, and the college moved to purchase both.

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The first site, the recently vacated building on the corner of West State and Willow streets, once a furniture showroom, has now been transformed into the college’s new Center for Learning and Technology, featuring an extensive internal and exterior renovations and the integration and display of artifacts from the Thomas Edison collection.

The second site, on the corner of West State and Calhoun streets, is an important gateway to the city from Route 29. Until recently the site was home to a long-abandoned group of apartment houses that provided a poor welcome to the many people that came into the city via Calhoun Street. Several city administrations had tried unsuccessfully to get the site redeveloped, and only with Thomas Edison’s purchase of the property was progress made.

When completed, the site will house the college’s Nursing Education Center. It includes a parking deck with access that is not visible except from Route 29; a green roof over the rear of the parking deck that will be available for public functions and that will serve to reduce stormwater runoff and mitigate urban heat; a water-conserving plumbing system; energy conservation features throughout the building; and design features that will integrate it with its neighboring former mansion buildings. It will be the first LEED-Gold completed building in Trenton.

The college has also made efforts to improve the intersection of West State and Calhoun streets, which is extremely hostile to pedestrians and difficult for drivers to negotiate at busy times. The college is working with a group of citizens and with the state Department of Transportation on long-term improvements that will make the intersection more friendly to all users.

The college’s development of the Calhoun Street site was not without controversy, however. Local activists criticized the city for allowing development that wouldn’t generate property-tax revenue, and the college went to great lengths to explain why its development of the site would be in the best long-term interests of the city.

And it appears the college was right: There have been building sales nearby that had previously stalled for many years, an indication that the development of this site is already spurring additional investment.

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