Universities Team Up to Rebuild Jersey Shore

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. — School of Architecture Dean Kenneth Schwartz and a team of colleagues at Tulane University in New Orleans partnered with Newark’s New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in an effort to start restoring parts of the coastal Seaside Heights community, several parts of which were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.

After Hurricane Katrina, a similar project was organized in New Orleans, and Schwartz wants to pay it forward after more than a dozen architecture schools from around the country showed up to help — NJIT included. At that time, Tulane created a program called CityBuild that focused on community service and even inspired the school to reorganize some of its curriculum to help out local neighborhoods.

Darius Sollohub, director of NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design, hopes to set up a similar community service program at NJIT.

The New Jersey school became involved with Seaside Heights four years ago when students helped write a report about future plans for the city’s boardwalk and main streets. Post Hurricane Sandy, more than 20 architecture classes (or studios) were asked to develop similar ideas for rebuilding specific projects in the state.

Most of the damage in Seaside Heights was done to the boardwalk — wrecking 15 out of 16 blocks of the boardwalk and destroying the Casino Pier when the Jet Star rollercoaster fell into the ocean, where it still remains mostly intact.

Architects from both schools met in December to start working on plans for how to rebuild the community, and the school is currently seeking volunteers for its Alternative Spring Break program happening in March. Assignments will mainly include cleaning up beaches, deconstructing homes, building new structures, finishing work (such as painting or simple carpentry) and survey work. The university cannot offer college credit in exchange for the work, but every volunteer will receive a T-shirt, as well as food and drinks during their workdays.

The key goals for the construction project will be to make retail stores hurricane proof, as well as to raise whole neighborhoods in low-lying areas above flood zones — both of which pose an architectural challenge, as reported by The Star-Ledger.