The $62.5 million project is being funded by $46.8 million from the state higher education bond approved by voters in November 2012. Rutgers will pay for the rest.
The project is one of 176 higher-education infrastructure projects being partly or fully funded from a $1.3 billion state pot that includes $750 million approved last year in a referendum.
The new building at Fifth and Federal Streets connects Camden's University District with Cooper University Hospital, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, and the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
"This is much more than just a building for students," said State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden). "When this Nursing and Science Building is completed, it will change the face of Camden and the face of education. Many people describe this as a crime corridor; today we're going to make it known as a road to research."
The groundbreaking - though a construction company has not been selected - is one of a half-dozen Christie has made throughout the state this election season.
This month, Christie and State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) paired up for a ceremonial groundbreaking for a $71 million engineering building at Rowan University, funded in part by the state. At the time, an architect had not been selected.
Rutgers' groundbreaking Wednesday took place on land the university does not yet own. The property was transferred from the Camden Redevelopment Authority to the Camden Parking Authority on Friday, said Sandra Johnson, the authority's director.
The transfer to Rutgers is expected to happen in the next few months, Rutgers-Camden chancellor Wendell Pritchett said. The reason for the intermediary transfer to the Parking Authority has to do in part with the fact that the facility will include a large parking deck, he said.
"There were some legal technicalities since we're moving more than one piece of land. It'll be transferred over to us in the next few months and certainly before the building phase begins in January or February," Pritchett said.
"Across the state, you've seen celebrations like this, and Camden wanted one, too. You see a lot of projects in the same position as ours, and the fact is, January's not a good time to have a groundbreaking."
Christie touted the bipartisanship that made the center possible, saying nursing students who attended did not care whether "the initiative comes from a Democrat or a Republican."
"The point of coming down here isn't just to put a spotlight on Camden, it's to put a spotlight on what happens when we work together," he said.
The building will serve more than 1,000 nursing students in undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as students in Rutgers-Camden's doctoral programs in computational and integrative biology and nursing practice.
The building will contain classrooms, computer labs, conference rooms, lecture halls, and offices.