/Shiny New Dorm, Same Old Problems

Shiny New Dorm, Same Old Problems

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Nicolas Arango

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Located on the corner of Warren and Wickliffe, a new dorm continues the goal of ever-expanding NJIT’s campus. With a new building comes new excitement. Unfortunately, especially among us HCAD students, since we spend extensive time imagining builds on campus and the surrounding Newark community, the build also inevitably draws criticism. 

I commend the designers for including a storefront first floor that will encourage people to venture out to that corner of campus, like the droves of students that visit the Village Market or Smashburger at the Honors College. By placing businesses at street-level, the dorm will encourage students and Newark residents alike to gather here and liven up a particularly dull intersection.  

An additional 500-bedroom units in the new residence hall will help NJIT remedy our socially starved campus and it will be an encouraging sight to see NJIT’s streets filled with more students. As a bonus, since the dormitory will feature many singles, the dorm will be particularly adaptable for a possible COVID-extended reality.  

However, visually, the new building does not add anything distinctive to the street corner. In fact, the Vue, as it is named currently, could be placed in Ohio or Arizona and one would not be the wiser that NJIT was the building’s intended campus. Although Newark is the third oldest city in the nation with vast architectural history that should have influenced the final appearance of the building, the architect doesn’t embody these elements into the building’s design, instead choosing to emulate the style of the condos being built over in Harrison.  

Newark’s history is particularly significant in this project, as the site of where the dorm will be constructed over the Warren Street School, which has stood for over 100 years since its construction in 1892 by architectural firm O’Rourke, well known for building Catholic churches and other federal institutions. Due to its historical presence, the school has become a remarkable feature of the University Heights neighborhood but unfortunately had its interior damaged by a fire in May 2019. It would have been ideal to integrate the original external structure into the new dorm but unfortunately only the archway will remain. Lucas Conrad-Parisi, a third-year architecture student, described his thoughts: “I really wish they did something with the Warren Street school more; it’s a shame because I think it looks nice. I would always drive past it coming into NJIT so that will definitely be a different experience.” 

On an urban scale, this building will further integrate the NJIT campus with the city of Newark. The placement of the interior courtyard is interesting as it does not face the growing downtown but instead peers west, into the more residential section of Central Ward. As these areas are almost never considered by students, it is a wonderful decision to focus our attention westward and acknowledge those whom with we share a city.   

However, although we share Newark, there is a noticeable border between the campus and the greater city. A barrier is established at this street corner, particularly because of the WEC’s design. Although on one side its glass facade welcomes student athletes and their fans, it fails to encourage any congregation at the corner street edges of Warren Street and Raymond Boulevard. Instead of an event center, the WEC appears more like an imposing urban fortress. The new dorm will have to succeed where the WEC failed and reduce the division between the campus and city.  

Another feature is the use of environmentally friendly materials for construction. Since it is estimated that building construction and operations contribute to nearly 40% of global emissions, it is necessary to mitigate the negative impact of a new construction. However, these materials can only help so much. David Kushner, an HCAD ’19 alum, addressed his concerns: “What I would like to see changed about the project: Not having a solar/green roof is a missed opportunity.” The building will continue to contribute to emissions after construction, therefore any tools that help reduce pollution should be considered heavily. 

Expectations for this project are already large and will only continue to grow. Will the building be labeled a success or become an example of what not to do? While we will have to wait until Fall 2022 for construction to be finished and for these questions to be answered, there remains one last but arguably the most important issue at hand: What tree species will the dorm be named after?