NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The city's most notorious redevelopment firm has announced seven of the nine tenants that will occupy retail storefronts in a transformative and controversial privatized dormitory project at Rutgers University.
The tenants include six different food establishments, including one with roots in New Brunswick, and a Starbuck's Coffee, the third to open within a three-block radius.
Currently under construction at Hamilton Street and College Avenue, the project replaces a beloved Rutgers University institution, "the Grease Trucks," a gathering of several food trucks that remained parked in a campus lot for over two decades.
In 2013, Rutgers forced the trucks out of their longtime home and split them up across multiple campuses.
Among the new tenants on the old site is Ayman Elnaggar, the owner of "RU Hungry?" one of the historic trucks. Elnaggar will be selling his famous "fat sandwiches" indoors for a change, in addition to maintaining the truck.
Pierson Commercial Real Estate teamed up with New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) to lease the ground-floor storefronts in the project.
According to a joint announcement by DEVCO and Pierson, the project will include at least seven food & beverage establishments:
- RU Hungry, an indoor version of the "grease truck" that once occupied the same spot
- House of Cupcakes, a fifth location of NJ-based cupcake chain
- Bella's Burger Shack, a second location for Basking Ridge, NJ restaurant
- Jersey Mike's Subs, location for Manasquan-based chain with 1,000+ stores across US
- Krispy Pizza, a third location for pizza restaurant from Brooklyn and Old Bridge
- honeygrow, a "farm-to-fork" eatery with 3 locations in Pennsylvania, 1 in Delaware, and 2 in NJ
- Starbuck's Coffee, the national chain's third location in New Brunswick
The new building's developer is also pursuing a lease with the Surf Taco restaurant chain, and has room for one additional tenant in the on-campus mega-project.
"I am confident Surf Taco will be announced soon," wrote DEVCO's President Chris Paladino on an online message board.
"We are still talking to a electronics and or [convenience] store operation. We had to [nix] a [convenience] store option because [too] many conflicts."
Paladino said that the leases include "minimum hours [of operation], not maximum hours," meaning the businesses can stay open as late as they want.
"We expect most operators will stay open until midnight on weekdays and [later] on weekends," wrote Paladino. "Everyone must be open before lunch."
Notably, the project so far does not include any clothing stores, something that previous renderings of the development included.
"Am I the only one who thinks a retail clothing store would be a good idea?" asked one user on the Rivals.com message board. "Where can you walk to in all of New Brunswick for a decent clothing option?"
"[You're] one hundred percent spot on but we have tried in vain," responded Paladino. "You can't buy Jeans, shoes, a tie, a belt in NB…"
The development is being marketed to potential tenants and to the Rutgers community under a new name: "The Yard @ College Avenue."
Originally dubbed the "Rutgers living room" by university officials, the project consists of a courtyard with a large video screen, surrounded on three sides by the 15-story structure, which will house between 400 and 500 students.
The project is part of a $330 million initative to redevelop large sections of the College Avenue Campus, the most historic sector of Rutgers University.
The redevelopment initiative, a partnership between Rutgers, DEVCO, Rutgers Hillel, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and others, received millions of dollars in state tax credits from the NJ Economic Development Authority.
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.