A New Newark: Lofty Goals
Click here for Part I on the rebirth of Newark.
For a city such as Newark, the announcement of a new corporate resident like Panasonic is welcome news. However, bringing back full-time residents is of equal importance. In the most recent census, Newark’s population grew for the first time in three decades. Newark remained New Jersey’s largest city, with 277,140 residents, a gain of roughly 3,600 people since 2000.
Its total population declined from 438,776 in 1950 to 275,221 in 1990, a decrease of 37 percent. Between 1950 and 1990, the city’s population changed from an 83 percent white majority to a 59 percent black majority. Hispanics have become Newark’s fastest growing ethnic group with a total population of 69,204, 25 percent of the population. (source: policy.rutgers.edu)
At the recent Newark Regional Business Partnership (NRBP) conference, talk about housing initiatives shared the spotlight with commercial development. Teacher’s Village, a mixed-use development in the downtown area, has received much of the media coverage. The project was awarded nearly $40 million in Urban Transit Hub tax credits from the state Economic Development Authority and allocated $60 million in federal New Markets tax credits for the school portion. Other public financing came from the city of Newark, the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and federal Qualified School Construction Bonds. Private financing came from Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial Corp., TD Bank and New Jersey Community Capital. (source: star-ledger)
“Each one of these (credits) was essential,”explained developer Ron Beit of New York-based RBH Group, who got his start in Newark. “They were essential in getting us to where we are today. And they will be essential in getting us to the next level. When we change the narrative and Newark becomes solely a market of private capital. Teacher’s Village is the first phase of a much larger area. We had to make certain this plan would be sustainable in the long term of economic development. We were able to look at plans around the country and the world to see what has and hasn’t worked. One thing you need for a successful 24/7 community is three food groups of real estate: commercial; residential and retail. Teacher’s Village has included all three.”
At the epicenter of where the 1967 riots occurred, a re-branded, 12-screen movie theater stands. Lyneir Richardson, CEO of the Brick City Development Corp told the audience, “Cineplex is a cool new theater that is co-sponsored by (Newark native) Shaquille O’Neal. His O’Neal Group owns and operates the theater with Boraie Development. And we found that many areas in the city were food deserts or food swamps. You couldn’t buy a carrot but you could buy a bag of chips. We have opened three new supermarkets in the central wards and Whole Foods has been in Newark looking at sites.”
Studebaker Lofts, Richardson Lofts and Packard Lofts round out apartment conversions and speak to the history of Newark. Richardson Lofts is just a seven-minute walk to Newark Penn Station. Midtown Manhattan and the Financial District are only twenty minutes away via NJ Transit or PATH trains. RPM Development Group is behind the Richardson and Studebaker developments, Dubrow Management behind Packard.
There is talk of renovating the The Hahnes and Griffith Buildings in the heart of the central business district of Newark as a retail and residential complex. The project would be a joint venture between the Berger Organization and Cogswell Realty Group. Hahne’s, along with retail icon Bamberger’s, was long a staple of Newark until nearby malls and changing shopping habits came on the scene.
Newark was designed to resemble Manhattan. Residential was not downtown; it was located in the outer communities. People worked at firms like Prudential and went home to the wife and kids at the end of the day. Now, the city is home to 40,000 students; including Rutgers business school and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. There is also the Seton Hall University School of Law. “The leap that Prudential is making by building an office tower on Broad Street will connect the universities with the city. You’ve created a new enclave. The city is coming out of the central core and that’s where the growth will be,” said Jon Mesiel of Jones Lang LaSalle.
“We are very upbeat about the future of the city,” said Hobby’s deli co-owner Marc Brummer. Even Philip Roth might be smiling as he turns 80 and is celebrated by his city of birth. He might even stop by Hobby’s for a pastrami on rye.
For more information, contact the Newark Regional Business Partnership.
Steve Viuker is a Brooklyn, New York business journalist.
He has covered real estate, small business and banking for numerous national online and print media.