Buildings and Places, Education

Suzanne Klein is a principal and associate vice president for AECOM’s Buildings + Places market in the U.S. East & Latin America region. Specializing in higher education projects, she led the campus master planning for Middlesex College’s CIO Plan.

John C. Phillips is a vice president and the managing principal for AECOM’s Buildings + Places market in New Jersey. He is leading the project team implementing Middlesex College’s CIO Plan.

This is the third article in a three-part series highlighting our partnership with Middlesex College and Middlesex County to develop the College’s strategic investment plan.

Middlesex County, located in central New Jersey, is uniquely positioned to support economic development and educational opportunities. Along with its proximity to major metropolitan areas, the population of the County is diverse — in fact, it is home to the state’s largest Asian population. Middlesex College, the two-year public institution located in the Township of Edison, adds to the County’s diversity with its majority minority student population. Realizing the almost limitless growth potential the County and College have through their partnership, they collaborated on a master plan that supports equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) from the classroom to the court.

Reaching these development goals requires a judiciously executed series of steps, which is where our team excels. Serving as the consultant for Middlesex College’s Community, Innovation and Opportunity (CIO) Strategic Investment Plan, we developed key recommendations referred to as the five “Big Moves” of the College’s master plan:

1. The Multipurpose Community Complex

2. The Spine

3. Pathways and Places

4. Campus Life

5. The Edison Park Destination Athletic Complex

In this final article of our Middlesex series, we will focus on the first and fifth Big Moves: the Multipurpose Community Complex and the Edison Park Destination Athletic Complex. Through these two proposed improvements, the County and College will offer welcoming access to equitable, inclusive spaces where all members of its diverse community — from students to the general public — can find their place and be supported through every step of their educational, professional and personal journeys.

Live, learn and grow

A major aspect of the master plan is to maximize professional, academic and personal connections —locally and regionally — by providing services that better support students during their educational experience. The new Multipurpose Community Complex serves this purpose. Consisting of approximately 33 acres at the “front door” of the campus, it will incorporate contemporary facilities and outdoor gathering places for the student population, visitors and the greater community.

The largest structure planned for this complex is the Multipurpose Community Venue, a new, open-air, 4,500-seat facility. The venue will accommodate an array of activities such as concerts, cultural gatherings, sports and recreation events, and more. Aligning with New Jersey’s “Garden State” mentality, the venue will also host a weekly farmers market, which will support small businesses and provide access to fresh food for students and locals. The new Student Center, discussed in our second article in this series, is also included in this complex and it, too, will provide on-campus food options for students and visitors during events.

Another addition to the complex is the new Middlesex County Park, which will feature an expansive playground, amphitheater and a comfort station, all connected by well-lit paths. The park will be an inclusive, safe space for casual recreation for the campus and local communities.

A destination for local and regional sports

Outdoor sports and recreation facilities inject energy, wellness and added revenue into a community. The County’s plans to redevelop the existing Thomas A. Edison Park into the Edison Park Destination Athletic Complex will provide a centralized place where local and regional athletes can compete. The complex will include combination baseball, soccer and lacrosse fields; tennis courts; a track; and a highly anticipated new cricket field. The complex will be built on a 95-acre site on the campus’s southeastern border where the Thomas A. Edison Park is currently located.

The new athletic complex also includes a pedestrian bridge that will connect the complex and the Multipurpose Community Venue to the College’s central pathway, called The Spine. This bridge will be a physical representation of the connection between Middlesex College and Middlesex County, embodying their dedication to becoming a more accessible destination and allowing students and the community to share resources and easily get involved in athletic events as players, officials, fans or volunteers. 

Bringing the community and campus together

Middlesex College’s mission is to provide access to a quality, affordable education for a diverse population, to support student success for lifelong learning, and to strengthen the economic, social and cultural life of the community. The five Big Moves of the Middlesex College’s strategic investment plan pave a clear path forward for the College and the County. The Multipurpose Community Complex will fulfill the need as an inclusive space for students and non-students to share art and culture, while accessing resources and services that help them thrive. The Spine will connect with new pathways and gathering places to strengthen the campus’s accessibility and aesthetics. A focus on improving campus life inspired plans for a new Student Center, Academic Workforce Development Conference Center and on-campus magnet high school expansion. And the Edison Park Destination Athletic Complex will act as a central hub for athletics, promoting overall wellbeing and pride while generating revenue for maintenance of the County’s park system. Through their ongoing partnership, Middlesex College and Middlesex County continue to define what it means to be the heart of the community — a place where everyone belongs.

Read the first article in this series, Growing together: Thinking beyond the traditional college master plan, where we discussed how Middlesex College’s strategic investment plan was developed in concert with Middlesex County. The second article in this series, Growing together: Campus planning that advances a thriving diverse community, reviewed three of the five “Big Moves” identified in the College’s master plan: the Spine, Pathways and Places, and Campus Life.

Read more detailed information about Middlesex College’s CIO Strategic Investment plan here: CIO Strategic Investment Plan | Middlesex County NJ

The new Middlesex County Park will feature an expansive playground and well-lit pathways that provide a safe space for recreation.
The Multipurpose Community Complex is comprised of 33 acres at the “front door” of Middlesex College and will foster academic, professional and personal connections.
The revamped Edison Park Destination Athletic Complex will serve as a regional hub for a variety of sports events, promoting wellbeing on campus and in the community, while also generating revenue.
Originally published Feb 26, 2024

Authors: Suzanne Klein , John C. Phillips