The opening of the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium and the announcement of the coming Weston Family Lab for Earth and Space Exploration and the Sapiens 2.0 Exhibition Gallery were just some of the ways the Liberty Science Center celebrated its 25th anniversary Thursday night.
But, as the LSC community looks toward its next 25 years, it is especially excited about what is coming on the 14 acres of land adjacent to its parking lot: SciTech Scity.
The $280 million complex, a collaboration between Jersey City and LSC, is dubbed as the place where “the future comes alive.”
Paul Hoffman, CEO and president of LSC, said SciTech Scity will be a curated community — or mini-city — of tech entrepreneurs, scientists, students and forward-thinking people.
“We’re going to build a science community,” he told the crowd of a few hundred at the invitation-only event Thursday night. “It will be a mini-city with a hundred startup companies. We’re going to have a conference space to bring people together to help invent the future.
“We’re going to have a K-12 school there. A K-8 school that serves its neighborhood and the best science and technology high school in the country. We’re going to create this little mini-city so the future just doesn’t pass us by, we can actually help create the future. New Jersey needs more centers like this.”
Organizers intend to open the project in 2021.
Steven Howe, the U.S. chairman and managing partner of EY, and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop both were acknowledged for their commitment to SciTech Scity.
Howe said EY is thrilled to be a part of such a transformational effort.
“EY has been committed and will stay committed to SciTech Scity,” he said. “This is really cool what’s happening in Jersey City. We’re going to have a world-class school. Companies are going to come here to innovate (with) research and development.
“I think people really are beginning to see that these ideas are going to become a reality. We’re really proud to be a part of that.”
Howe said the need for a place such as SciTech Scity is greater than ever.
“I think we all know in the United States there’s a crisis around STEM,” he said. “People with science, technology, engineering and math skills — we are not even close to having the skills we need.
“What Paul is leading here, and what all of us are supporting, is truly inspirational, and the mayor is in the middle of that. I’d encourage all of you and all of us to stay connected with Paul, with Liberty Science Center with the new planetarium and with what’s taking shape at SciTech Scity, because this is not just pretty cool, it’s pretty necessary.”
Hoffman credited Fulop with having the foresight to see the value of the project almost since the day he became mayor on July 1, 2013.
“Steve Fulop really was instrumental in this,” Hoffman said. “He was struck by the fact that so many science entrepreneurs come here.
“He challenged us to come up with a really transformative project that, when it works, it’s going to change not just the face of Jersey City, but New Jersey. And, maybe we incubate a company that comes up with something great and we can actually change the world.”
Fulop said the road to SciTech Scity was not easy, and thanked the city council in Jersey City for agreeing to essentially give away such a valuable piece of property.
“There’s a lot of things that the council members and the administration could have chosen to do with that property, but they had the foresight to think about 25 years into the future and of what they wanted Jersey City to be and to invest in making this really a destination place beyond just Liberty Science Center,” he said.
“When they voted for this, it’s not an easy vote, because there are a lot of people who came out and didn’t understand what we were trying to do, and (said) that we should sell the property or get better value for it. I think they made a wise decision. So, for those council members who are here, I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you.’ ”
Fulop also thanked the board of LSC.
“It’s really easy to believe in all of you,” he said. “You represent some of the biggest companies in the state and in the country and in the world, and you are so passionate about what goes on here. It’s really easy as a mayor and council to get behind a project like this.
“This project is the single-largest endeavor that we are doing in Jersey City that will transform the next 25 years. I’m super-excited about this because I know, when we look forward to the next 25-year anniversary, that they will look back at your contribution and this decision and say this is one of the single most special things in all of Jersey City.”