When Bloomfield College recently moved and upgraded its Barnes & Noble College bookstore, adding a Starbucks café and seating areas, one of its goals was to offer greater convenience for its students. That convenience has certainly been felt by Shantel Vincent, a Bloomfield College senior and Starbucks barista whose daily commute involves racing down a flight of stairs.
That’s because the bookstore resides on the first floor of the new 80,000-square-foot residence hall at the corner of Broad and Franklin Streets in downtown Bloomfield Center in New Jersey. “It’s a new residence building for juniors and seniors, and it’s where I live as well,” said Vincent, who lists caramel macchiatos and caramel frappacinos as her favorite drinks to prepare. “I come straight down the stairs and I’m at work. It couldn’t be an easier commute.”
Although the convenience of finding a job so close to home was a major win for Vincent, she did worry about learning how to prepare the multitude of drinks served in the café. “At first, I was wondering how I’d learn it all,” she said, “but my training was great and I have a good support system here in the store, so I quickly picked it up. It wasn’t so hard after all.”
That convenience and accessibility is also being felt by the downtown community. The expansion project has created a sustainable space that includes dormitories and classrooms, with a 5,000-plus-square-foot Barnes & Noble at Bloomfield College bookstore taking center stage on the first floor. Completed in just 14 months, the state-of-the-art structure not only houses 234 students, but also boasts a rooftop courtyard, game room, fitness center and multipurpose space, in addition to multiple lounge areas overlooking downtown Bloomfield on each floor.
The new building is part of the College’s desire to be a community partner in Bloomfield’s redevelopment initiative — with the residence hall serving as one of its first completed projects. Located on the border of a residential neighborhood and the downtown area, the bookstore has drawn many customers from the community who have business meetings over a cup of coffee and pick up snacks from the café such as sandwiches, bagels, pastries, cookies and stuffed pretzels. Its previous location, buried in a small student center (which has since been relocated as well) did not bring in many town residents.
“It’s a very large project for a relatively small institution,” explains Howard Buxbaum, vice president for finance and administration at Bloomfield College. “The residence hall is located in part of Bloomfield’s area of redevelopment, so there was protocol to follow. There were technical design requirements, such as how tall the building could be, how it casts a shadow on the street and what it overlooks. We had to coordinate with the city’s lighting standards and pavers. It was very exciting to be part of our community’s redevelopment.”
The enthusiasm appears to be mutual. “The Township is extremely pleased with the signature appearance the College building has created as you enter our downtown area, and equally pleased with the manner in which it was constructed, allowing it to achieve LEED Status,” Bloomfield Township Director of Community Development Glenn Domenick said of the new space. “We believe the College is an integral part of our downtown revitalization efforts, and look forward to a continued bond that will lead to additional partnerships in the future.”
The partnership continues to grow with the bookstore team participating in meetings of the Bloomfield Alliance Center (the management entity of the Bloomfield Center Special Improvement District) and recently, its Harvest Fest celebration, where it publicized the opening of the store. “It’s creating a vivid street life, too, with outdoor benches and, during warmer weather, tables and chairs outside,” Domenick said.
With its additional space, extensive café and new selection of merchandise, the bookstore’s been getting an enthusiastic reaction from customers. “Everyone — faculty, staff and students — has been saying how much they love the new look of the store,” said Bloomfield College Campus Store Manager Jo’vi Codrington. “It’s become a great gathering spot — and to bring in even more people into the store, we’re planning events from children’s readings to live music and coffee. We’re exploring holding a jewelry workshop, bible-study classes in the café, and even pumpkin painting as well.”
In the 16 years Codrington has worked for Barnes & Noble College, her experience has been on city campuses, including Columbia University, Fordham University at Lincoln Center, Hunter College, and most recently, John Jay College. Leaving the city, she says, has been a nice transition to campus life in the suburbs. “It feels like such a close-knit community,” she said. “I really like the College and the city of Bloomfield — and I’m actually looking forward to moving here from Manhattan!” That will no doubt up the convenience factor for this store manager, too.