New Brunswick Development Corp. President Christopher Paladino speaks Wednesday during a topping-out ceremony for the Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center, a $750 million project in New Brunswick that will house 520,000 square feet of treatment, patient services and research space. — Courtesy: Devco
By Joshua Burd
The future home of the state’s first freestanding cancer hospital is taking shape in downtown New Brunswick, where a crowd of business and political leaders gathered Wednesday to tout the progress of the city’s largest and most impactful development project to date.
Located at Somerset and Division streets, the steel frame of what will be the Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center has reached its full height of 12 stories, with a footprint that’s slated to house 520,000 square feet of treatment, patient services and research space. The facility remains on track to open in 2024 under a $750 million project by the New Brunswick Development Corp., or Devco, in partnership with RWJBarnabas Health and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
The construction took center stage during a topping-off ceremony on Wednesday, where Devco President Chris Paladino noted that more than 35 local labor unions have participated in the to date.
“Already, 650 members of the trades have worked here at the cancer institute project, and we anticipate more than doubling that number by the time we cut the ribbon,” Paladino said. “All of these hard-working men and women have kept us on schedule and maintained a safe job site. The building trades are always our partners, so thank you for your extraordinary effort and commitment.”
— RutgersCancerInstNJ (@RutgersCancer) November 2, 2022
Construction management firm Jingoli is building the facility and, through its Competitive Edge program, has helped ensure that 36 percent of the project team to date is made up of underrepresented minorities and women members of the trades, Paladino said. He added that the firm and CEO Joseph Jingoli has actively recruited local individuals from faith-based organizations and returning citizens programs to participate in a train-to-hire initiative, with many of them already working on the site.
To that end, RWJBarnabas Health CEO Barry Ostrowsky said the project was “emblematic” of the health system’s belief that “we can’t make our communities healthier exclusively with clinical services.” Its efforts should also integrate social services, create opportunity for the unemployed or untrained and address food insecurity, he said, among other goals.
“For me, when people talk about what is health care doing dabbling in social services like food insecurity and job training, I point to this,” Ostrowsky said, calling Jingoli a “national leader in developing job opportunities for those who typically don’t have them.”
“This is the project that should lead other organizations like ours to embrace this two-platform approach to ensure better health care.”
Developer Jack Morris, who chairs the RWJBarnabas board of trustees and whose philanthropy spurred the facility’s development, credited Ostrowsky as the visionary for the project after the 2016 merger of Barnabas Health and Robert Wood Johnson Health System.
“This is an example of one of the great things that we are able to do,” said Morris, CEO of Edgewood Properties. “And there’s a lot more that we have done and a lot more that we’ll do, and it’s because of Barry Ostrowsky.”
According to RWJBarnabas, the new pavilion will house inpatient, outpatient and ancillary services, as well as state-of-the-art laboratories where research faculty can provide hands-on educational opportunities for students and enable physician-scientists to translate scientific findings directly to patients. The facility will also enable ease of access for imaging and other diagnostic tests, treatment and follow-up exams all in one space.
After a long-awaited groundbreaking in June 2021, the complex is now rising across from the existing Rutgers Cancer Institute and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
“Much has been accomplished, but more work needs to be done,” New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill said during Wednesday’s ceremony. “With this new state-of-the-art cancer pavilion, the fight against this dreaded disease will be taken to a whole new level.”