Billions of dollars are being spent on economic development activity in Newark. The most visible symbols of this investment, like Panasonic’s new North American headquarters and Prudential’s new office tower under construction at the site of the iconic S. Klein Department Store on Broad Street, are helping to transform the city’s historic downtown skyline. Newark’s Ironbound District in the city’s East Ward is seeing unprecedented activity as well.
“Many exciting new projects are underway all over the City of Newark. Newark has had over $1-billion in projects under construction over the past four years and has over $2 billion in additional projects moving forward,” says Victor Emenuga, CEO of Brick City Development Corporation (BCDC). “These projects include several new hotels such as the Courtyard by Marriott, which recently opened near the Prudential Center, Hotel Indigo, which is redeveloping the former First National State Bank building, and the anticipated construction of the Carvi Hotel in the Ironbound. The Ironbound section of Newark is filled with a rich history, remarkable cuisine and remains a huge attraction for visitors. The growth in the Ironbound continues to enhance the overall growth of our city.”
The convenience and connectivity the Ironbound and entire East Ward provide through air and sea ports, commercial and passenger rail lines, plus an extensive highway network have certainly contributed to current and planned development. Other factors play a part as well.
According to a study compiled by Liberty Corner-based consulting firm FinPro for ConnectOne Bank, the Ironbound is home to twice as many businesses as the rest of Essex County, with roughly 600 businesses per square mile in the district, compared to fewer than 300 for the rest of the county, including a diverse mix of wholesalers, construction, manufacturing and transportation companies in addition to the Ironbound’s renowned restaurants.
For decades, the Ironbound District has been recognized as one of New Jersey’s top dining destinations. With nearly 200 restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and specialty food stores, the Ironbound draws visitors from throughout the metropolitan region and beyond. Its proximity to Newark Penn Station, the NJ Turnpike and Newark Liberty International Airport place it at the center of a transportation nexus that appeals to visitors as well as businesses large and small.
In addition, a $3.5-million investment, part of an integrated commercial corridor revitalization strategy, has added curb appeal through streetscape improvements on Ferry Street, an ongoing program to enhance the Ironbound’s key commercial thoroughfare. According to data collected by the Newark Office of the Urban Enterprise Zone Program, that investment has helped stimulate more than $30 million in private investment along Ferry Street over the last five years.
“One of the keys to successful economic development is to be destination worthy,” notes Seth A. Grossman, PhD., who serves as executive director of the Ironbound Business Improvement District (IBID), one of several business improvement districts that support economic activity throughout the city.
“The Ironbound is a unique component of Newark’s exceptional cultural, dining and lifestyle appeal and a primary destination asset for the region. Managing this asset is fundamental to our success. Professional hospitality, communications and customer service are services the Ironbound business community delivers to achieve this goal.”
Tourism and Newark may not have been synonymous over the past decade, but Newark is fast becoming a popular destination, according to Michael Davidson, executive director of the Greater Newark Convention & Visitors Bureau (GNCVB).
“While hotel development was once concentrated in and around Newark Liberty International Airport – servicing for the most part the business traveler – recent hotel development has shifted to downtown and the Ironbound, creating hotels for travelers looking to be able to walk outside their hotel to experience the sights and sounds of the city,” Davidson points out.
Because overnight visitors spend more than twice as much as day trippers, new hotels under construction and in the planning stages in Newark’s downtown and Ironbound will have a major economic impact as tourists eat at local restaurants and shop at retail stores.
Greg Comito of Newark-based Comito Associates, project architects for the Carvi Hotel (the Ironbound District’s first hotel), says demand for both hotel accommodations and quality residential units is strong among both visitors and the growing number of people seeking urban living niches that offer quality-of-life attributes like those that have driven dramatic changes in Brooklyn, Hoboken and Jersey City.
“We have been in Newark for more than 25 years and have noticed that the Ironbound has remained the most stable live/work community and has consistently been considered a choice development area,” Comito adds. “Land values are higher, naturally, and the opportunities for larger scale development, however, are fewer than the other districts where we see more grand scale, city block proposals. Only within the past five or so years have we seen the commuting aspect to NYC start to increase in importance.”
Luis Nogueira of Exit Lucky Realty Assoc., an Ironbound-based firm with more than 25 years of experience in the city’s commercial and residential real estate markets, states that demand is very high in the Ironbound for multi-family homes and more upscale rental units. Many projects are currently in development to address supply and demand, with more in the planning stages. He expects the success of these projects to encourage other developers and stimulate even greater demand, with activity increasing downtown and spreading further into the adjacent Ironbound District.
The Carvi Hotel will offer 94 rooms in a six-story space dominated by a soaring atrium, along with a café, conference rooms, a garden terrace, as well as a rooftop lounge with views of both the Newark and Manhattan skylines.
Comito Associates also has more than 1,000 rental units in various stages of design and construction in the Ironbound, including a new rental apartment building, and is converting two factory buildings into residential lofts all within three blocks of the hotel site at Lafayette and Monroe streets.
Yet, hotels are just part of the story. In the Ironbound, BCDC (the city’s economic development arm) has worked to attract new businesses and encourage existing companies to expand and grow.
Manischewitz, the nation’s largest manufacturer of processed kosher food products, relocated its headquarters to the Ironbound in 2011, and has been a catalyst for other recent moves. Shelly’s Food Service, a wholesale food seller, is converting a 13,700-square-foot office and warehouse space in the Ironbound into a meat processing facility. The business originated in 1950 as a family-run butcher shop, and has since grown to become a foodservice manufacturer and distributor serving the tri-state area and Pennsylvania.
SoCafe, an importer, roaster, packager and distributor of coffee and coffee-related products located on Malvern Street, participated in BCDC’s Newark Innovation Engineering Initiative that helps companies uncover new product, market and process-improvement opportunities.
The Ironbound is also attracting small urban manufacturers that are finding homes in renovated buildings, reminders of Newark’s industrial past. RBH Group is redeveloping a 69,000-square-foot industrial complex on a 3-acre site on Rome Street. AeroFarms, an aeroponic farm that grows leafy greens, herbs and flowers in a controlled environment, will be the anchor tenant. Upon full build-out, AeroFarms will be the largest indoor aeroponic farm in the world, growing up to 2-million pounds per year of leafy greens in a safe, sanitary and environmentally controlled facility.
From tourists and urban homesteaders, to entrepreneurs and investors, Newark’s Ironbound is attracting interest for more than just great restaurants. While the city’s downtown may host many of Newark’s most recognizable corporations, the Ironbound continues to serve as an important economic generator, leveraging its assets to keep pace with development activity citywide.Related Articles: