ATLANTIC CITY — As part of an effort to transform the city blocks around Stockton University and to spur economic development there, officials are trying to dub the area a University District.
City Council introduced an ordinance last month that would implement a University District Overlay Zone in the area around Stockton — a move that would give the green light for the university to equip the streets with banners, signs and provide a designation for Stockton’s territory.
“We’re developing a plan to utilize banners that will help to designate the parameters of the University District,” said Brian Jackson, chief operating officer for Stockton’s Atlantic City campus. “We think that it will really bring some life to the neighborhood, having that physical identity and creating that campus atmosphere within an urban setting.”
The ordinance on second reading was tabled at Wednesday night’s council meeting but should be up for final approval once it is approved by the Planning Board, which meets next month.
The University District would run along Albany Avenue from the Boardwalk to Bader Field and be bordered by Sovereign and Dover avenues, according to the ordinance.
Sixth Ward Councilman Jesse Kurtz, one of the sponsors of the ordinance, said the area around the university — empty storefronts, restaurants, small businesses and homes — could be boosted with this designation.
“Fundamentally, it’s meant to define that territory around Stockton, as well as that corridor, to rebrand it as this University District,” Kurtz said. “It’s to attract investment and development in that initial corridor and a couple blocks around Stockton.”
Once established, the area would provide a “sense of identity” and could help attract new businesses and homebuyers, along with potential grants and tax incentives, Jackson said.
The university district designation that encompasses the Rutgers—Camden campus has provided benefits to both the university and city, said Mike Sepanic, the associate chancellor for external relations at Rutgers University Camden.
“It’s a real opportunity to welcome folks into the city of Camden with familiar names and logos,” Sepanic said.
The designation, along with a stable structure like the university campus, welcomes businesses such as retailers and eateries that are essential for students and could also be used by residents, he said. The district has had an impact on the immediate neighborhoods to enable “students, faculty and staff to be more engaged in the city,” he said.
While the Stockton district is still in the planning stages, Jackson said, officials hope to offer additional incentives for businesses within the district. For example, Stockton is measuring business’ interest in using the Osprey Card program, in which they would accept student and faculty ID cards that are used like a debit card.
Some businesses have already expressed interest, Jackson said.
“Our effort is to not be in Atlantic City, but be a part of Atlantic City. It’s important that we integrate,” Jackson said.
Paola Muriel, an assistant manager at BOOM Market that sits on Ventnor Avenue across the street from the new Stockton building, said her store is already thinking about ways to expand its inventory to prepare for the growing population in the area.
Muriel said the store is talking about collaborating with Stockton to link with student and faculty accounts.
“It will bring a lot of students to the area,” Muriel said. “Where we’re located, I think that’s going to be perfect for business.”
Muriel added that the opening of the campus and with it a university-district feel would help keep the city busy and “keep the businesses moving.”
“It’s going to be a big improvement,” she said.
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