Seminary Silent on Controversial Apartment Project Proposed in Their Name

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Gregg Mast, the President of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, has not responded to multiple inquiries about a controversial proposed housing development scheduled for a hearing at tonight's New Brunswick Planning Board meeting.

The meeting is scheduled for 7:30pm in the Middlesex County Administration Building, and renderings for the application are titled "New Brunswick Theological Seminary Housing."

But, according to the project's opponents, the Seminary doesn't need housing because it has just 125 students and over 90% of them commute.

New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) President Chris Paladino confirmed the seminary currently has no on-campus housing and that they are getting by with 5 rental apartments in The Vue, a nearby skyscraper built by his organization.

An increasing number of the school's students come from other countries like Korea and may benefit from new housing options more closely associated with the seminary.

However, the plans call for a 52-unit apartment complex that would mostly be rented on the private market.  According to the plans, the first floor would have a separate entrance and be exclusively for Seminary students.

So far, there has been no word of a deal in writing between developer Construction Management Associates (aka Premiere Properties) and the theological seminary.

The development company's President previously said there was a "verbal agreement," but he declined to give details and the Seminary has not confirmed one way or the other.

Now, DEVCO controls the property, having bought it for just $1 from Rutgers in 2013.

Paladino says his organization had promised the Seminary 10 units of housing as part of a land deal that involved DEVCO, Rutgers, the Seminary, and Rutgers Hillel. 

But plans changed when the consortium could not get the full $52 million in tax credits they sought, and the Mine Street property became a key piece of the deal that was often overshadowed by the larger buildings and the controversy over the grease trucks.

Originally, the NBTS housing units were going to be a part of a larger Rutgers "honors college" project on Holy Hill, which was until recently owned by the Seminary itself.

"In 2012, the deal was in general very different," when the Rutgers Boards of Governors and Trustees initially voted to sell the land under the impression it would cause the creation of "townhouses" to serve as housing for seminary students.

The agreement evolved in a way that made the so-called "Seminary Housing" project much bigger, and eventually DEVCO passed it off to Construction Management Associates.

However, DEVCO would still have to agree to sell or give the land to Construction Management Associates, and a lot depends whether Construction Management Associates can secure the approvals from the Planning Board.

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Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.