Newark’s downtown has long been home to the state’s business elite, including big name corporations like Prudential Financial, Panasonic, Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and Audible. Today, that level of energy is matched by a similarly vibrant residential component. That change, both downtown and throughout the city, is driven by efforts to increase equitable housing, supported by the City of Newark, and fueled by the vision, commitment and investment of a wide range of individuals and organizations dedicated to changing the residential dynamic and contributing to a more equitable city for all.
In May, Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced a $20-million investment in Affordable Newark, a new housing initiative targeted to Newark families earning incomes of $32,000 and below. In June, the city issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) inviting developers to participate in the program and hosted a virtual “How to Apply” session, with a focus on minority and women developers, projects with minority co-developers, and small-scale developments of 30 units or less.
“Fifty-nine percent of all Newark renters are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than a third of their incomes for housing, and one-third have to spend more than half of their incomes for a place to live,” Mayor Baraka said at the time of the announcement. “To move toward our Newark Forward goal of a more equitable city, we are prioritizing housing that the average resident can afford.”
“Among Mayor Baraka’s highest priorities is to make Newark a more equitable and collaborative city,” Deputy Mayor and Director of Economic & Housing Development Allison Ladd adds. “To this end, he has created several programs, including the Neighborhood Development Program, Newark Land Bank, the Section 8 Homeownership Program, and the MWBE Co-Developer Program, to engage local minority and women developers in partnerships with the city to revitalize neighborhoods by creating new and rehabilitated housing that is affordable for a wide range of Newark residents.”
July saw three families involved in Invest Newark’s “Section 8 Homeownership Conversion Program” officially close on their new homes. The program uses properties transferred to the Newark Land Bank from the City of Newark’s Department of Economic and Housing Development to enable first-time homebuyers, while creating access to capital and more equitable opportunities for MWBE contractors across the city.
“Newark’s award-winning Section 8 Homeownership Conversion Program is now a national model for future affordable homeownership programs,” Bernel Hall, Invest Newark president and CEO says. “This program brought together partners at every level – from contractors and construction firms to government and banking partners – to eliminate the historical barriers that have barred low-income families from accessing homeownership. The program converts Section 8 rental vouchers into homeownership vouchers via the redevelopment of abandoned public property.”
Invest Newark has partnered with the city to structure and launch critical economic programs that support the vision for an equitable city established by Mayor Baraka. The New Jersey Forty Acres and a Mule Fund, initially launched as the Newark FAM Fund, is a $100-million campaign investment vehicle created to combat social and economic inequalities resulting from systemic racism by investing capital in New Jersey’s Black and Latinx business owners and communities.
Private developers are also contributing to the evolving downtown residential scene. “In the past decade, there have been some significant changes in composition of the downtown. Never a residential neighborhood, Newark’s downtown is emerging as a great place to live,” Barbara E. Kauffman, Newark Regional Business Partnership (NRBP) executive vice president and chief operating officer, points out.
“Newark developers like Adenah Bayoh, RBH Group, and Paramount Assets are assuring that there are affordable choices in addition to market rate and even high-end market rate rentals, helping to meet the goal to ensure that Newark is an equitable city,” Kauffman says. “Older buildings no longer suited for offices are being converted, some with incredible architecture such as the 1926 former Verizon headquarters, now Walker House, that creates a distinctive living environment, developed by L&M Development Partners.”
Paramount Assets has added 100 market rate apartments in the Historic Four Corners District of the Central Ward over the past three years. Company projects, including 15 William Street, 30 and 40 Clinton streets, three historically significant buildings, were rehabilitated to give them new life and preserve not only their architectural appeal, but to conserve the fabric of the Four Corners Historical District.
“Additionally, the line between the corporations and universities has become less apparent, especially with the construction by Rutgers Newark of the Honors Living Learning community on Halsey Street,” Kauffman continues. “With the recent announcement by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) concerning plans to build out the neighborhood, there is a hint that for the first time there may be some for-sale product in high-rise downtown buildings.”
NJPAC has partnered with Center Street Owners, led by L&M Development, to move forward with the next phase of what many longtime Newark advocates believe will be the realization of an ambitious and transformational plan destined to expand the growing arts and education district.
The vision includes a vibrant community of low and high-rise multi-family homes, as well as retail, restaurant and cultural spaces. The plan also includes an estimated 15 new townhomes and condos on more than seven acres of developable land that’s part of NJPAC’s campus. An additionally estimated 330 rental residences, including 20% affordable and 80% market rate, are also included in this phase, valued at close to $150 million. A 2022 groundbreaking is planned, with completion expected in 2024.
According to Tim Lizura, senior vice president, real estate and special projects at NJPAC, “This project is about creating a vibrant community that is of Newark; a place that feels great for visitors and residents alike.”
Since 2014, Narelle Myke’s sole focus has been to revitalize Newark by not only providing for sale ground-up new construction, but also quality rentals, all located within the South and West wards. In that time, Myke, the founder of New Age Investment Properties, has had the privilege to offer for sale and for rent affordable and market rate housing to several families, some of them multi-generational.
“I am pleased to be one of several designated developers working in collaboration with the Economic and Housing Development Department to revive neighborhoods within the city,” Myke points out. “My upcoming for sale project, ‘The Pointes on 18th,’ is an infill development consisting of three 3-unit homes to be completed by the end of next year. One of the goals of this project is to increase homeownership in a ward that has several areas in need of redevelopment. A very important domino effect of this project is that it will also assist in increasing the value of properties nearby.”
Other developers are looking for ways to contribute to building an equitable community through means beyond affordable housing commitments. Ballantine EFG Property Owner, LLC (EFG) earned approval to move forward with a six-story, mixed-use development including nearly 300 residential units at the site of the former Ballantine Brewery complex in Newark’s Ironbound section. While the developer noted during public hearings that it would continue to work with the city regarding the project’s percentage of affordable housing units, it also proposed other opportunities to make a contribution to the community. EFG says they will commit to hiring locally for both construction jobs associated with the project’s build out, estimated at up to two years, plus jobs related to the building’s ongoing maintenance, operations, and upkeep.
Newark’s co-working community is also contributing to equitable growth for the next generation of entrepreneurs and startups by creating a comfortable, nurturing and welcoming environment that appeals to a diverse audience.
“One of the important aspects of co-working is the ability of a diverse group of people working together towards a goal,” Kenneth Miles, a founding partner at 3rd Space, notes. “We have members who have been in business for years, start-ups, students studying for the bar or medical exams, non-profits advocating for children’s education in the state of New Jersey, you name it! When you’re starting out in business you need room to be flexible. Co-working also provides the opportunity for people who have been traditionally disadvantaged in business the opportunity to network and operate in a space that matches where they are in business.”
Meanwhile, coming December 2021, Newark Makerhoods is bringing together a supportive community of local makers, creatives, entrepreneurs and residents. It includes the rehabilitation of the Krueger-Scott Mansion and new construction.
The historic Krueger-Scott Mansion will be reinvigorated with the previous owners’ entrepreneurial spirit through co-working, office space, event space, workshops and community-centric events. Behind the mansion, new construction will include 66 mixed-income apartments, 16 Maker shops, a greenhouse, a demonstration and commercial kitchen, courtyard and event space.
There are many unique components to Newark Makerhoods, but the most unique is the Live/Work Program. This program is designed for Makers who rent and who are looking for an affordable solution to having their own commercial space and apartment. Starting at $1,800 a month, selected applicants will receive a Maker shop, an apartment, and business support services.
Makerhoods Founder and CEO Avi Telyas comments, “Makerhoods provides a new solution by combining both affordable housing and affordable commercial space to help small businesses keep their overhead low and grow their business.”
“From my perspective, the largest group of stakeholders are the actual residents of Newark; a diverse group of people who, at their core, want the very best for themselves, their families, and this city that they call home,” Myke of New Age Investment Properties, concludes.
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