TRENTON – Revitalization of long-dormant buildings in downtown Trenton, and the conversion of them to classroom and community space, has earned Mercer County Community College (MCCC) a 2019 Smart Growth Award from New Jersey Future.
“At Mercer County Community College, our middle name is community, so community development is part-and-parcel of who we are,” said MCCC President Dr. Jianping Wang.
Multiple redevelopment projects adjacent to MCCC’s James Kerney Campus in downtown Trenton were cited in New Jersey Future’s award presentation. Total, four buildings on North Broad Street were targeted for redevelopment, with a fifth leased building given new life as a center for health-related programs and training.
The centerpiece, Trenton Hall, was expanded in 2017. The new Trenton Hall Annex features an art gallery, community meeting space, and an outdoor courtyard, in addition to classroom and instructional space.
“Some of these buildings were abandoned for many years, and when Mercer County Community College opened its doors across the street, it was a jump start for the rest of the block to be redeveloped,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora. “Trenton Hall is a beautiful, revitalized building repurposed from its historic day.”
“It’s both been about renovating existing buildings here, expanding buildings, but also about how could they create a real college campus feel in this urban location,” said John Hatch, principal with architectural firm Clark Canton Hintz, who designed the building. “I think it’s all interconnected, so that the impact on the students is connected with the impact it is having on the city.”
The MCCC projects are part of a proposed arts, entertainment and education district in downtown Trenton, which will align the college’s current efforts on North Broad Street with the city’s existing South Broad Street vision. Future plans include a partnership with the Trenton Public Library to also serve as the college’s library, and revitalization of a vacant movie theater to be used for teaching space and performances.
“You are developing these all in one, so the city truly becomes a place where you can live, learn, and work,” Wang said. “We have a very large underserved population, and when you lift one person in the family, the whole family is lifted. And when you lift up one family, the whole neighborhood is lifted.”
Founded in 1987, New Jersey Future is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes sensible growth, redevelopment and infrastructure investments through original research, innovative policy development, coalition-building, advocacy, and hands-on strategic assistance.