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GLASSBORO, NJ-Three serious bidders have emerged for West Campus, a $1-billon mixed-use academic, athletic and commercial project announced earlier this year by officials of Rowan University, a state-supported institution formerly known as Glassboro State College. The proposed site totals 285 acres straddling the border of this South Jersey city and neighboring Harrison Township.

The three contenders include Fairmount Properties, a Cleveland-based company that specializes in college-related developments. Also in the mix are Opus East, the Plymouth Meeting, PA-based division of Opus Group, and the New York City-based Milestone University Investments. Officials of the three contenders declined to comment.

Rowan has put the project on a tight timeline. University officials say they will make a decision on the designated developer by May 1, and will begin contract negotiations immediately thereafter. Also driving the project’s timing is a July 1 deadline set by Major League Soccer to work out a deal for a 20,000-seat stadium on the property to house a new franchise for the league. MLS officials have said publicly that they want to have a Metro Philadelphia area franchise in operation by 2009.

Besides the soccer stadium, the general site plan outlined by university officials in the RFP includes all new athletic facilities for the university. Moving all of those facilities off the main campus in Glassboro would free those sites up for academic expansion. University officials also want to see a mix of residential, retail and other commercial development to support the project, and a hotel would also be part of the mix. The residential component would include student housing for about 3,000, or about one-quarter of the university student body.

“These three companies are serious investors,” said a university spokesman, speaking at the announcement of the finalists. ‘These are companies that can do a project of this size. If you’re a bidder, you wouldn’t go through the effort of filing a bid if you couldn’t get it done.”

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