Is Newark the new Brooklyn?
NONKO, EMILY. “Is Newark the new Brooklyn?”. nypost.com Mar. 2, 2017When Isabel Livingston opened a shop in Newark’s Teacher’s Village development in 2015, she had no intention of moving there, too. She had grown up in Newark but left some 15 years ago in search of better public schools for her daughter, eventually settling in Maplewood, NJ.
It didn’t take long, however, for Livingston — whose shop, Closet Savvy Consignment, is a brick-and-mortar version of her luxury consignment business — to change her mind. She moved into Teacher’s Village, a $150 million mixed-use project from RBH Group, three months ago.
“After seeing all the improvements in the city of Newark, and the [tight-knit] community at Teacher’s Village, it seemed like a no-brainer,” she says. “Newark is the place to be.”
The multi-part mixed-used complex Teacher’s Village is in downtown Newark.RBH Group and Richard Meier & Partners
The city, which has long struggled with a declining economy and a violent reputation, is in the spotlight.
This past December, the Newark Police Department presented statistics showing crime in the city was at its lowest rate since 1967. New investors have poured around $1.7 billion into residential, commercial and industrial projects, according to the city’s Department of Economic and Housing Development, and bougie businesses like Whole Foods are opening their doors.
Add to this a burgeoning arts scene, iconic architecture, surrounding universities and proximity to both Manhattan (it’s about a 30-minute train ride from Newark Penn Station to downtown Manhattan, with trains leaving from both stations frequently) and Newark Liberty International Airport. It’s not surprising that even Vogue caught a whiff of the change, recently calling the city “one of the most unexpected locales to be considered a travel destination.”
It’s a place that is slowly attracting new residents — and has room to grow, too, unlike so many jam-packed neighborhoods in NYC’s five boroughs and even towns like Jersey City and Hoboken.
“[Newark’s] infrastructure was built for half a million people. We’re currently at 280,000,” says Katilia Vélez, director of development at the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC). The Ironbound neighborhood is a hub for the Portuguese community as well as residents from Spain, Ecuador, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Not surprisingly, Vélez says, “the strongest point Newark has is its diversity.”
Eager developers are landing on underutilized office towers and commercial buildings, taking advantage of cheap land prices that result in relatively affordable apartments for renters and buyers.
According to The Marketing Directors, a New York-based brokerage and development advisory, while rental prices have risen 17 percent over the past 10 years, they’re still up to 40 percent cheaper than rents in Jersey City. Available rentals at higher-end Newark properties, it found, range from $1,593 for a studio up to $2,553 for a two-bedroom.
The for-rent apartments at 24 Jones St. in Newark have seen an influx of residents moving from New York City.New World Group, Inc.
The Marketing Directors is leasing luxury apartments at University Heights development 24 Jones St., which start at $1,645 a month for a studio. Since opening last fall, 12 percent of incoming residents have decamped from New York City, according to Angela Ferrara, executive vice president of The Marketing Directors. “We’ve seen a growing confidence in the neighborhood [from New Yorkers],” she says.
“The escalating price of real estate in New York is encouraging people to think more broadly about the perimeter around the city as a resource,” says Jon Cortell, vice president of development at L&M, which recently converted the formerly abandoned Hahne & Co. department store, built in 1901 at 50 Halsey St., into a mixed-use project. It’s now on the market with 160 rentals. “[Newark] is a city of great buildings that nobody has noticed.”
Hahne & Co.’s loft-like units, located in a former department store and adjacent to the brand-new Whole Foods, rent from $1,800 a month.Dustin Summers
According to L&M, 40 percent of Hahne & Co. apartments are earmarked as affordable housing, with a market-rate one-bedroom starting at $1,800 a month. The building also holds 100,000 square feet of commercial, community and office space, including an already opened Barnes & Noble College bookstore and Whole Foods, and a Marcus Samuelsson restaurant debuting later this year.
Cortell says L&M worked closely with community leaders and local politicians to reopen the iconic building and arranged a lease with Rutgers University to open an arts incubator, Express Newark, on the second floor.
The company is also converting the New Jersey Bell office tower at 540 Broad St., an Art Deco building on the National Register of Historic Places, into a 265-unit apartment building. The building, which previously housed offices for Verizon, is expected to open in 2018.
Newark’s old-school Ironbound neighborhood is seeing new life.Tamara Beckwith
RBH Group’s Teacher’s Village, which launched in 2013, includes 204 rental units, retail shops, three charter schools and a daycare facility. And in tandem with the building of the project, the firm repurposed a 3-acre former steel mill in the Ironbound area, at 212 Rome St., into creative manufacturing space.
When RBH learned that local organizations like ICC wanted to create jobs through the green energy industry, the firm courted AeroFarms, a vertical farm startup, to be the anchor tenant, according to Ron Beit, founding partner at RBH. AeroFarms now occupies 69,000 square feet there.
“We have a global vision, a 21st-century vision, for Newark overall,” Beit says.
RBH is also in the financing stages for Four Corners Millennium, a project that would turn underutilized downtown buildings into residential, hotel, office and retail spaces.
Additional developments include a 168-unit apartment at 36 Rector St., dubbed One Riverview, from Boraie Development and backed by Shaquille O’Neal, who’s originally from Newark. Another famous born-and-bred resident, Queen Latifah, has partnered with GS Developers to build a 115-unit project at 650 Springfield Ave., known as Rita Gardens.
This January, the city and developers Edison Properties and J&L Companies Inc. unveiled plans to transform a 22-acre downtown site known as Triangle Park into Mulberry Commons, a $100 million project with public space, retail and restaurants. The park space is expected to open by summer 2018.
Mixed-use development One Theater Square will hold 245 rentals and luxe common spaces when it opens in 2018.BLT Architects
And Dranoff Properties has teamed up with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) at 1 Center St. for its One Theater Square project. The 22-story tower, which will hold retail space and 245 rentals when it opens in 2018, is the first new-construction residential skyscraper built in the city since the 1960s.
“We see a new district being created,” says Dranoff president Carl Dranoff, who notes that nearby Military Park — a 6-acre green space — just underwent a $7 million upgrade.
Jasmine Wahi (standing) and Rebecca Jampol in the art gallery they opened in 2015Ventiko
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, which owns the parking lot that will be transformed into One Theater Square, owns two other adjacent sites on which it plans to partner with developers. According to John Schreiber, president of NJPAC, the company was inspired by the arts district formed around the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Not that he expects Newark’s transformation to mirror Brooklyn’s, but the borough serves as a model of culturally conscious development. “Newark is not Brooklyn,” he says. “Newark is Newark.”
Still, the emerging arts scene is reminiscent of Brooklyn in its pre-gentrification days.
“It’s still affordable to be here, and there’s just more space,” says Jasmine Wahi, co-founder and co-director of the 2015-opened Gateway Project Spaces, a 30,000-square-foot arts facility with studios, an artist residency program and gallery space inside the Gateway Center, an office complex above Newark Penn Station.
“The community here is close-knit,” Wahi adds, “with a lot of safe space to talk about the impact art has on the Newark community, and the impact the community has on art.”
Although Wahi’s co-director, Rebecca Jampol, is a longtime Newark resident, Wahi herself has yet to make the leap from Brooklyn — but she expects to be a resident soon.
“I am planning on moving to Newark,” she says. “I love this city.”