Rowan University’s explosive growth had Glassboro officials worried that students would overrun the center of town. So Rowan and Glassboro went in on an all-new one to take care of that problem.
Usually, the developments I’ve come to refer to as “Instant Urbanism” pop us on the fringes of metropolitan areas, most often near some freeway interchange that wound up sprouting an edge city. These developments, like those now taking shape in King of
Prussia, are designed to inject the things young Millennials and their aging Baby Boomer parents both find increasingly desirable into the autocentric suburban landscape: streets lined with stores, apartments over those stores, sidewalks made for strolling, outdoor cafes, you get the idea.
Right now, in the sleepy South Jersey borough of Glassboro, a chunk of Instant Urbanism has sprung full-blown from what had been a residential neighborhood right smack in the center of town, well away from any freeway.
It’s called Rowan Boulevard, and the reason it’s there is to keep the university at the edge of town from swallowing it whole.
The college that almost ate Glassboro
The $100 million donation from industrialist Henry Rowan that transformed Glassboro State College into what is now Rowan University sparked a period of explosive growth that has yet to abate. As of this academic year, the university enrolled 18,454 students from 38 states and 34 countries, a far cry from enrollment in Glassboro State days.
All those new students began to make their presence felt in downtown Glassboro, and as far as the borough and merchants were concerned, that wasn’t an unalloyed blessing.
“About 14 years ago, this was about 90 single-family houses, said Ronda Abbruzzese, vice president of marketing and leasing for Nexus Properties, Rowan Boulevard’s current master developer. “They were turning into student rentals and a lot of frat houses.
At the time, Abbruzzese said, Rowan officials weren’t planning for the explosive growth that has come to the campus, but they soon became aware they needed to, for borough officials had begun to get complaints from Main Street merchants that the students were overrunning their stores and the town.