Rutgers-Newark Alumni Center (image © Aislinn Weidele / Mills + Schnoering Architects)

The Rutgers University-Newark Alumni Center architectural project combined renovation and adaptive use of the historic 19thcentury Fewsmith Residence with a compatible, yet contemporary, new addition.

[Princeton, N.J.]  Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC(M+Sa) of Princeton, N.J., completed design of the Rutgers University-Newark Alumni Center renovation and adaptive use project to strengthen alumni and community relations. Opened in Fall 2018, the facility recently completed its first semester of operations. The project builds upon other recent preservation and new construction projects strengthening Newark’s cultural heritage and reinforcing the university’s connection to the city.

“The Alumni Center is an investment in Newark in two fundamental dimensions,” said Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor. “Physically, it celebrates Newark’s distinguished past while signaling the city’s extraordinary renewal. Metaphorically, it connects generations past and present—alumni and current students—for whom it is a hub for sharing experiences, knowledge, and wisdom.”

The Rutgers University-Newark Alumni Center architectural project combined renovation and adaptive use of the historic 19thcentury Fewsmith Residence with a compatible, yet contemporary, new addition. The project restored the building’s historic features – a curved marble stair and checkered entrance floor, decorative plaster work, travertine walls, and fireplaces – while providing accessibility upgrades and modern programming. 

The Alumni Center design revitalized a building important to Newark’s history and its downtown. The project established a new home for alumni resources and activities, housing both the alumni relations and development offices to promote a deeper connection between alumni engagement and philanthropy. Rental space is available within the building to Newark community members and organizations.

“The re-activation of a prominent site, restoration of an architecturally significant historic structure, and expansion with a contemporary addition combine to reinforce and integrate the fabric of the campus and surrounding community,” said M+Sa Principal Michael J. Mills, FAIA, who led the project. “We’re pleased that the building had a successful first semester rich with events and programming.”

Students, alumni, and user groups participated in discussions to inform the design and programming. An expansion was necessary both to fit the university’s desired program and accommodate necessary ADA upgrades.

The property at 47 Central Avenue in the historic James Street Commons neighborhood was built c. 1881-1889 for Newark physician Dr. Joseph Fewsmith to serve as his home and office. The architecture was likely the work of William Halsey Wood, a noted Newark ecclesiastical architect. Much of the building’s Queen Anne architectural character remained intact, including its multi-gabled roofs, curved corner bay, and sandstone and brick exterior.

The 4,882-square-foot restoration required consultation with and approval by the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, City of Newark Landmarks & Historic Preservation Commission, and the Historic James Street Commons Neighborhood Association. The most character-defining architectural features were restored. Although original architectural drawings were unavailable, archival research provided context and representative details for areas of repair or replacement.

A new 2,427-square-foot addition to the north replaced a deteriorated, non-historic garage structure. Comprising alternating bays of glass and masonry, with cast stone complementing the color and texture of the historic brickwork, the addition was designed to be light-filled and welcoming. The addition enabled an accessible entrance and new vertical circulation, including an elevator and fire stairs. The lobby serves as the “front porch” gathering area for alumni, students, staff, and community members.

“The addition respects the existing architecture in scale and material while introducing a more contemporary visual vocabulary,” said Mills. “It was a deliberate design decision not to replicate or mimic but to craft a building expansion that is both compatible and distinct.”

The project was designed to LEED Silver standards. Sustainable design features include water-conserving plumbing fixtures, smart lighting controls, new roof insulation for improved HVAC efficiency, an energy efficient curtain wall on the addition, and storm water management. The integration of these features favorably impacts long-term operating expenses, the building’s carbon footprint, and the university’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

The Rutgers University-Newark Alumni House is among several James Street Commons buildings that have been preserved or enlivened in recent years. The project complements the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies, adaptive use of 15 Washington Street for student housing and event space, the second phase of construction of the Life Sciences Building, opening of a new college walk from Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard to Military Park, and a new campus and community hub within the former Hahne & Co. Department Store.

Project Team

Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC| Architecture

C&B Consulting Engineers, LLC| MEP Engineering

French & Parrello Associates| Structural/Civil Engineering

Acentech| Audio Visual / IT / Security Consulting

Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates| Roof Consulting

Becker & Frondorf| Cost Estimating

About Rutgers University – Newark

Rutgers University – Newark (RU-N) is a diverse, urban, public research university that is an anchor institution in New Jersey’s cultural capital. More than 13,000 students are currently enrolled at its 38-acre campus in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, University College, the Graduate School, Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, the Rutgers Law School – Newark, the School of Criminal Justice, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration. RU-N is exceptionally well positioned to fulfill higher education’s promise as an engine of discovery, innovation, and social mobility. It has a remarkable legacy of producing high-impact scholarship that is connected to the great questions and challenges of the world. It has the right mix of disciplines and interdisciplinary centers and institutes to take on those questions and challenges. It is in and of a city and region where its work on local challenges undertaken with partners from many sectors resonates powerfully throughout our urbanizing world. Most importantly, RU-N brings an incredible diversity of people to this work—students, faculty, staff, and community partners—making it more innovative, more creative, more engaging, and more relevant for our time and the times ahead. For more information please visit www.newark.rutgers.edu.

About Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC

Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC (M+Sa) of Princeton, N.J., is a full-service architectural firm with work focused on cultural and public buildings, campus planning and design, and the preservation and rehabilitation of historic structures. For more information, visit http://msarchitectsllc.com.

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