Will Rowan build? Mantua and Harrison wait and see

Rowan in conversation with private entity to build new athletic facility on West Campus

By March 2021, Rowan University may open the doors to a new athletic facility on its West Campus, which is located in both Harrison and Mantua townships.

Due to a combination of Rowan potentially selling and leasing land, both townships have entered into a shared services agreement to construct a redevelopment plan for the area, a plan that will be in the hands of both committees by June 18. One developer will write the plans for both townships and will be brought before both township Joint Land-Use Boards.

According to Harrison Township Mayor Lou Manzo, if this project comes to fruition in the summer months, dirt will move as early as March 2019. The total cost of the facility has not been revealed.

Manzo explained the project was brought to the table several years ago; however, it was sidelined due to the roughly 100 acres of land purchased in Harrison on which Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill is now being constructed. The hospital’s projected finish is September 2019.

Approximately 500 acres of land is split between the townships by Route 322 that make up the West Campus.

“Rowan’s philosophy of public-private partnership has now led to a relationship with a private entity that will develop this entire north (Mantua) quadrant,” Manzo said.

While the name of this private entity is not yet clear, according to a project overview document overseen by the university, multiple “partners delivering the project” include local and international architects, national baseball and soccer event coordinators, lawyers and more. Most notably, Comcast Spectacor is listed as “facilities management.”

“Comcast is real,” Manzo said stating that the presence of Comcast makes him feel this project will happen.

A placeholder name has been given to the project: Motus, which translates to movement in Latin.

The project includes eight baseball diamonds, 15 artificial turf multi-purpose fields, a 120,000 square-foot indoor sports hall, an outdoor track, a 5,000-seat multi-purpose arena, 60,000 square-feet for retail (food) purposes, a 340-room hotel and more. The bulk of the infrastructure is planned for the Mantua side with the entrance located on Harrison Township land. The northside land will be leased by the entity from Rowan University, according to Manzo.

“How is that going to impact our infrastructure?” Manzo said was his main question regarding this project.

A traffic study is scheduled to be released from the university by June 30 detailing a plan to divert an overabundance of parking and traffic in the area. Manzo says his biggest concern is a traffic failure on both Routes 322 and 55. Satellite parking is being discussed, Manzo said.

Seperate from Motus, the portion of Harrison Township that makes up the West Campus will be sold by Rowan for private commercial needs.

“There are several ongoing negotiations which will be detailed when/if they crystallize,” Manzo said.

He added whatever occupies the southside space, it will be for “low-intensity uses.”

“And, obviously, they will produce substantial tax ratables for Harrison that were not previously anticipated,” he added.

This land will fall under the PILOT tax program. In the coming weeks, in preparation of a green light for building, Mantua and Harrison will meet to discuss the sharing of tax income from the total 500 acres.

“It is unusual to have a joint redevelopment plan between two townships,” Manzo said, but added, “We do have a good working relationship with Mantua, we trust each other.”

This is a developing story.