By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY – Brian Jackson, the chief executive officer of the Stockton University Atlantic City campus said the school was “excited” to partner with AC DEVCO in building a second residential building near the city’s famed Boardwalk, increasing its footprint in the resort town.
A groundbreaking for the new building took place Wednesday, which included Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small and New Jersey Lt. Gov. Shelia Oliver and Gov. Phil Murphy.
“As you can imagine, Stockton is very excited to partner with our development partner, AC DEVCO on this Phase II project – the new residential building,” said Jackson, one of the highest ranking African Americans in Stockton’s administration who has led the Atlantic City campus since its inception.
“It will play a critical role in our Atlantic City campus’s ability to accommodate the increasing demand for on campus housing of our students and expand our academic offerings. In recent years, Stockton has been successful in attracting more students from a wider geographic area throughout the state and region. As such, there has been an increased demand for on campus housing, especially in Atlantic City,” he continued.
Stockton Atlantic City a Hit with Students
Scores of high-profile public officials from around the state praised Stockton for its efforts in expanding the campus and how it has paid off with student interest. The new residential building will be located across from O’Donnell Park across from the current Stockton Atlantic City campus.
“Our first residential complex has proven to be the most popular housing at the university and there has been pent-up demand for additional housing at our AC campus,” Jackson said. “Our students love living in AC and having access to the beach, boardwalk, and all the wonderful amenities offered within the University District and the City.”
Small, a former star Stockton University basketball player, has been an advocate for the school expanding in Atlantic City and said the exciting around the new residence hall, expected to be competed by 2023, to prove a success.
Stockton a Plus for City
“We have to keep making announcements like this,” Small said at the event. “I look forward to residents taking advantage of this fine institution, just as I did. You could not ask for a more incredible group of people to take care of your children.”
Jackson said the new project will come dozens of new construction jobs for the local trades.
“Once the residential building opens, there will be over 400 additional students adding to the more than 500 students already living at the Stockton AC campus, supporting the local businesses, leveraging our ability to increase community engagement, and adding to the vibrancy of the University District and the City,” Jackson said.
The six-story, 416-bed Residence Hall will be built at Atlantic and South Providence avenues in the University District.
Murphy Praises Stockton’s Future
“I can’t wait to see this take shape,” Murphy told about 150 guests at the outdoor ceremony held in O’Donnell Park. “It will create good jobs today, help prepare the next generation, and diversify the economy of Atlantic City.”
Multiple speakers acknowledged the bipartisan cooperation and partnerships among city, county, state and university officials who have made Stockton Atlantic City a reality and now are helping it grow.
“I have come to know this town intimately and Atlantic City is a great town,” Oliver, who said the expansion of Stockton will lead to expansion along the entire University District corridor.
“We will continue to build this community,” said Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, who credited Stockton President Harvey Kesselman’s vision.
Kesselman said the expansion is just another step in the university’s commitment to the city.
“This shows our confidence not just in Atlantic City, but in the great state of New Jersey,”
Kesselman said, citing the opportunities it would provide for students from around the state.
Speakers from Around State Join in the Celebration
State Senator Chris A. Brown said the event was not just good for Stockton, but for local families and their children.
“This is an awesome occasion and a great opportunity to show bipartisan support,” Brown, a Republican, said.
“No level of government could do this by itself,” said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson. “We all have to pitch in and be partners. I am so happy to be a part of this.”
Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald said despite the challenges the state is facing, the groundbreaking creates hope for the future.
“We are passionate about Atlantic City as a destination and a jewel,” he said.
Stockton Board of Trustees Chair Raymond R. Ciccone said the Stockton Atlantic City campus was a success from the day it opened in September 2018, and the student housing on the Boardwalk there is the most popular among students.
“The housing from day one was at capacity and I am sure this one will be also,” he said. He cited programs offered in the city, including the Master of Social work and Master of Business Administration, which provide clinical opportunities in the city.
Referencing an early motto of Stockton to “plant yourself where you can grow,” Ciccone said
Stockton has planted itself in Atlantic City and will continue to grow there.
Jon Hanson, chairman of the board of AC Devco said their mission is to make Atlantic City a better place.
“None of this would have happened without all of the people who spoke here today,” Hanson said. He is already looking ahead to a potential future development on the lot now used for commuter parking and would like to see an anchor partner like South Jersey Gas locate there along with student housing and retail.
“When one thing starts, you have to start planning the next one,” he said.
Stockton Interim Provost and Vice President for Student Affairs Michelle McDonald said while the event was for a building, the space is just the beginning.
“It’s the people who use the buildings that we also celebrate,” McDonald said. She said over the last two years Stockton has demonstrated its commitment to Atlantic City, and those in higher education must also challenge themselves to prepare students for the future.
“We are educating then next generation,” she said.
Katharine Campion, Stockton Student Senate president and a representative of that generation said she and other students are “ecstatic” to see the campus grow.
A North Jersey resident, she said she visited Stockton at the recommendation of a family member and “fell in love.”
She said Stockton is not just a college, but “also a home and a safe place for students that provides the resources we need to flourish.”
The ceremony and groundbreaking were set up to accommodate social distancing guidelines and masks were required except while invited speakers were speaking. The ceremonial shoveling took place on the site of the new Residence Hall, which is targeted to open in 2023.
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