New Jersey lawmakers gave final approval Friday to $50 million in bonds to help fund a "health sciences" center in downtown Camden.
The building is being developed by a joint Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden board of governors, formed in 2013 and tasked with creating health sciences partnerships between the schools.
The center is to go up in the block diagonally across from the Walter Rand Transportation Center. The block stretches from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Stevens Street and from Broadway to Fifth Street.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority gave preliminary approval to the funding in June. In November, it gave its final sign-off. The Joint Budget Oversight Committee (JBOC), composed of members of both chambers of the Legislature, on Friday approved the bond issue.
"Receiving the JBOC's approval for us today marks a significant milestone, and the final approval we have been waiting for," said Kris Kolluri, CEO of the joint board. "This gives us all the approval necessary to start the design and construction of the Joint Health Sciences Center in 2016."
The $50 million will go toward that building, which is to be the main component of a health sciences campus the board is planning for the block, including green space and a second building.
It will help anchor an "eds and meds" corridor stretching north to Rutgers-Camden and including the Cooper University Hospital and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University buildings. The joint board is expected to put in an additional $3 million to $4 million.
Of the lots on the block, the joint board has bought or has agreements to buy almost all. Three lots appear to be abandoned by their owners, and the board is preparing to use eminent domain to acquire them. One final property sale is being negotiated with the owner.
"I'm pretty comfortable in saying that by the end of January, we will have control over the entire site," Kolluri said.
In January, the design process will begin, Kolluri said. Engineers start assessment in February, and demolition is planned to begin in March or April, and be done by May. (Two buildings have already come down to create a gravel parking lot.)
Construction, Kolluri said, will begin next fall.