For decades, the Griffith Building has sat vacant across from Military Park in Downtown Newark amid multiple proposals to restore the historic edifice. Newspaper articles from throughout the last four decades are filled with mentions of adaptive reuse proposals for the structure, which is located at 605-607 Broad Street. In 2016, for example, 55 apartments with an auditorium or co-working space were planned, while a hotel concept was announced in 2013 and 223 units were proposed in 2003. In the 1980s, The New York Times even featured two stories about plans by developers to restore the building into corporate offices for groups like Security National Bank.
Now, after generations of abandonment, could the Griffith Building finally be utilized again? A new application to adaptively reuse the structure has been submitted to the Newark Central Planning Board by a firm called 605 Broad St., LLC, according to a legal notice.
Although few details have been released yet, the plans call for commercial space on the bottom two floors with residential units on the upper levels. In addition to Preliminary and Final Site Plan approval, the company is seeking variances for insufficient loading space, insufficient street trees, and insufficient lot width.
The proposal was initially slated to be heard at City Hall on August 20, but the matter has been adjourned to the board’s next meeting on Monday, September 10 at 6:30 p.m.
Once home to the Griffith Piano Company and the Griffith Music Foundation, the building included offices, a showroom, and a recital hall. To this day, the word “Griffith” can still be found prominently on the facade, though the site is in less than stellar condition. Built in 1927, it sits adjacent to the Hahne & Company Building, another historic property that was recently rehabilitated after sitting abandoned for decades.
Previously, the Newark-based Berger Organization, which owns the Robert Treat Hotel and was responsible for both the conversion of the Carlton Hotel on nearby East Park Place into the TRYP by Wyndham hotel and the unsuccessful proposal for a casino hotel near Riverfront Stadium, owned the Griffith Building and was planning to restore it. However, those plans never came to fruition and the new developer bought the site in April for $6.4 million.
The mysterious LLC that now owns the Griffith Building is registered out of an office in Ramsey, Bergen County. Over the last year, LLCs based out of the same address in Ramsey have been buying up properties all over Newark and proposing major adaptive reuse and built-from-scratch projects, including high-rise buildings on Springfield and South Orange Avenues.
It is not immediately clear if any affordable units are expected to be included in this redevelopment, nor is it known how many apartments will be included inside the project. Through their attorney at Murphy Partners, the developer declined an interview request. Jersey Digs has filed a public records request with the City of Newark in order to obtain additional information about the plans for the property and will report what we learn once new details are released.
This would not be the first adaptive reuse of this type in Downtown Newark. Eleven80 involved the conversion of the Newark Lefcourt Building into a residential project and the creation of the 15 Washington Street Apartments involved turning the old American Insurance Company headquarters into housing for Rutgers University-Newark students. However, should the renovation of the Griffith Building actually be completed, it would mark the completion of a goal that some have had for generations.