The planned rezoning of part of Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood over the last two years has been met with a variety of reactions from residents of the city’s East Ward. While elected officials in the state’s largest city have largely supported the implementation of the Mixed-Use 3 (MX-3) Residential and Commercial Zone, which allows in part for buildings as high as 145 feet tall to be constructed on several blocks just east of the Northeast Corridor train tracks, there has been no shortage of pushback from some other Newarkers and community groups. Now, just three months after MX-3 was controversially reinstated in part of the Ironbound, a company wants to use the new zoning to construct a development that would rise 125 feet above the neighborhood.
A legal notice released last week shows that a firm simply calling itself 59-65 McWhorter Holdings, LLC has filed an application for Preliminary and Final Site Plan approval with variances as part of its plan to merge 59-65 McWhorter Street and 50-56 Bruen Street and build an 11-story building on the premises. The proposed development would include 133 residential units if completed, though it is not clear yet if they would be apartments or condominiums, nor is it known how these units would be priced.
There are also plans for a 615-square-foot party room, lobby, and a rooftop for residents along with 2,780 square feet of retail space at the street level. The residential portion of the building would take up the second through the 11th floors.
City tax records show that the properties in question are owned by the Supreme Ink Company. A fading sign on the two-story former industrial building that stands on part of the site advertises Supreme Ink as “the pressman’s choice” but like the sign, the building itself is likely to fade away from the neighborhood as part of the development plan.
The Newark Central Planning Board is scheduled to hear the proposal during its meeting at City Hall on Monday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m.
Previously, much of the controversy involving MX-3 surrounded a proposal to construct a 12-story building with over 400 apartments just a stone’s throw away from this property at the site of a parking lot at 28-50 McWhorter Street, 51-57 Union Street, and 108 Hamilton Street. A slightly smaller version of the project was initially proposed under the neighborhood’s old zoning back in May 2017.
Then, the following month, plans were revealed relatively suddenly to implement a version of MX-3 that permitted high-rise buildings on several lots in the neighborhood, including these properties. This led to groups like the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) and PLANewark quickly organizing to protest the measure, with the ICC issuing a flyer reading in part that MX-3 “was developed without any community participation.” Meanwhile, officials such as Mayor Ras Baraka defended MX-3 and the new zoning soon became the law of the land in this part of the Ironbound. The proposed 12-story building on McWhorter, Union, and Hamilton Streets was later approved under MX-3 despite some opposition in the community.
However, the former version of MX-3 would not last long. PLANewark filed a lawsuit against the Newark Municipal Council, the Newark Central Planning Board, and the City Clerk in order to stop MX-3 and in October 2018, a Superior Court judge overturned the ordinance that allowed the new zoning in this section of the city.
Yet just three months after the judge’s decision and amid more controversy, a new version of MX-3 was unanimously approved by the Municipal Council. City records show that the latest version permits buildings up to 145 feet high along with breweries, artisan and craft workspaces, maker spaces, live-work units, and large-scale commercial recreation businesses such as go-kart raceways and bowling alleys. New buildings within 100 feet of Ferry Street will not be allowed to be taller than five stories.
With MX-3 back on the books in Newark and the first applications starting to come in under the new zoning, whether or not newly proposed projects in the neighborhood like 59-65 McWhorter Holdings, LLC’s plan will fly through the approvals process or face opposition remains to be seen.
Note to readers: The dates that applications are scheduled to be heard by the Newark Central Planning Board and other commissions are subject to change.