By David Cruz
Rutgers-Newark is recognized as one of the most diverse college campuses in the country. It’s inextricably tied to Newark and Newark to Rutgers. That is the guiding philosophy behind the university’s recently unveiled Master Plan, a redesign for the university that takes it beyond its current campus and makes Newark itself the campus.
“We look at the Master Plan for Rutgers University-Newark as being not about consolidating the university’s campus but making it more expansive and more porous with regard to the city and so we’re undertaking major projects here in the city that are off of our traditional campus, like in the Hahne’s building over here, in 15 Washington over on Washington Park a few blocks away,” said Rutgers-Newark Senior Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Peter Englot.
The old Hahne’s department store across from Military Park downtown will be the new home of Express Newark, a collaboration between the university and community partners which Englot says will help Newarkers tell the story of Newark from their perspectives. It’s on the corner of New Street, which will play a key role in the opening up of the campus.
“New Street becomes the spine that we wanna signal as a pedestrian walkway that connects the university physically to the heart of the city, and drives all the way up through our campus, through the library all the way through to Martin Luther King Boulevard,” Englot said.
A couple of blocks away, we’re walking through Washington Park, where Englot points out Number 15. It’s one of the iconic buildings downtown and it used to be home to Rutgers Law School. Since 1999, it’s been in mothballs though, inactive in a part of town that is also home to new development, including the Rutgers Business School.
“We’re gonna really activate it with all of these students, about 340 students — a hundred or so undergrad and then the rest grad students — and we’re also going to use this fantastic grand hall that’s on the first floor as a space where we can invite the public in for performing arts collaborations,” Englot said.
When asked to talk about the philosophy of having the chancellor living here, Englot said, “That is really the essence of what we think Rutgers isall about. We’re not just in Newark; we’re of Newark.”
Future students be warned, the chancellor’s residence will be up here, so keep the noise down.
Back on Washington Street, almost back on the traditional campus, we stop off at a parking lot. “This is where we’re going to build an honors living/learning community,” said Englot. “We’re looking to build a building that’s gonna house about 500 students, the vast majority of whom will come from Newark to help build the capacity of this city. There’s a lot of development going on; we wanna make sure that the citizens of Newark have a real stake stake and a real sense of ownership of the great things that are happening here,” Englot said.
Back on campus proper on a rainy Friday afternoon, it’s kind of slow, but the vision for Rutgers-Newark is one of a vibrant new campus that couples a revitalizing city with an institution that wants to show that it’s got skin in the game.
“We think that this Master Plan really honors that notion, that we are an institution that is physically and intellectually intertwined with the city,” Englot said.