Glassboro and Rowan propose new arts and entertainment district

With President Ali Houshmand looking to increase enrollment to 25,000 students within 10 years, Glassboro officials are looking to grow alongside the university. In addition to Glassboro adding more residential and retail spaces on Rowan Boulevard, town officials are working with Rowan to turn the High Street corridor, which runs through downtown Glassboro, into an arts and entertainment district.

The plan is still in the preliminary stages, with people from both the College of Performing Arts and College of Communication and Creative Arts attending meetings with Glassboro officials to discuss ideas about how it can be done to benefit both the town and university.

Ronda Abbruzzese, Glassboro’s director of business development, said that consultants from architecture firm Clark Caton Hintz are currently studying the old movie theater on the corner of High and Academy streets to figure out the best way to utilize the space. While the plans for the area are still evolving, Abbruzzese hopes to see it become a place for performances, exhibits and retail shops that everyone can enjoy. She said that all of the ongoing construction projects of downtown Glassboro are set to be completed in six to eight years.

John Pastin, dean of the College of Performing Arts, said that so far officials from his college have only offered their ideas on the project, but he is excited about what the proposed arts and entertainment district can offer.

“If we’re able to perform down there, what happens is more people start to come to the little town of Glassboro, other businesses start to crop up around it and economically it works in everyone’s favor,” Pastin said.

Pastin stressed that nothing is set in stone for this proposed project, but right now there is “potential for everything.”

Abbruzzese said that as Rowan expands further into different corners of Glassboro, it is important to balance the students’ needs with the residents’. One way the town does this is to allow residents to offer their input on what should be added to the proposed development sites.

“I think it begins with what we’re doing with [the project on High and Academy streets], getting them involved in deciding what’s gonna work there,” Abbruzzese said.

The most successful businesses that Abbruzzese has seen in her time as director of business development are the ones that work to attract members of the community as opposed to ones that are just aimed at students.

“Nine times out of 10 [new businesses] are looking to attract the university students, but let’s be real here, you’re here eight months out of the year,” Abbruzzese said.

Abbruzzese said she has a “target list” of businesses she would like to see occupy space in the new buildings. Some would cater to students, while others, like sit-down restaurants, would cater more to the community, but ultimately it will be up to the business owners to determine if their business is a fit for Glassboro.

“It really depends on the business owner and how creative they become when the students aren’t there,” Abbruzzese said.

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