Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Newark, listed on the National Register, was built in the mid-1800s as a rural burial ground on the outskirts of the city. Wealthy Newarkers — including governors, mayors, even a Supreme Court justice — wanted their final resting place to be far away from the crowded church cemeteries downtown.
More than a century has passed and despite the rapid growth of the city, the neighborhood around this historic cemetery has remained somewhat desolate. Part of the reason has to do with industry on the riverfront and the construction of Route 21 in the 1920s while failed redevelopment projects left behind vacant lots. Two new developments could bring two hundred residents to abandoned properties.
A five-story, 115-unit apartment building at 2-24 Mount Pleasant Avenue was approved by Central Planning last month. The building, designed by Livingston’s Jarmel Kizel Architects & Engineers, includes 24 affordable units and amenities such as a rooftop deck, gym, ground floor parking lot, and a public park along Mount Pleasant Avenue.
“We’ve broken the facade into numerous sections to give a sense of scale to the project, so it doesn’t take on a plain, massive look,” said architect Irwin Kizel.
“Our site is unique as it has four front facades,” said Kizel, who said he used a number of architectural features to give the building visual variety to avoid setting back the top two floors. “What we’ve done is we’ve created a series of jogs and shadow lines — we’ve created a parapet with slight overhang to give shadow lines.”
Wayne Richardson, planning board chairperson, who grew up in the neighborhood, said the lot was intended to be a school annex that never came to pass. “It has remained idle and blighted for many years,” Richardson. “So, I’m happy to see someone is going to build there.”
Two blocks away, another block-sized development at 109-119 Broad Street finally began leasing. More than a decade in the making, The Lantana, designed by Inglese Architects and Engineers, is a five-story residential building with 60 affordable units. The derelict lot where Lantana sits today was the site of a “failed townhouse project” that failed to secure financing, according to Rich Martoglio, vice president of RPM Development, who spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 23.
Despite buying the land in 2010, RPM Development didn’t make progress on the project until securing federal funds through the HOME Investment Partnerships Program and tax credits from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, Jersey Digs reported.
Aside from the cemetery, the Mount Pleasant neighborhood has a number of historic landmarks, the tallest and grandest among them is the Mutual Benefit Life building at 300 Broadway. Built in 1927, the six-story, columned headquarters was an unusual addition to this residential section of the North Ward, as most of the city’s insurance industry was, and still is, located downtown. A commercial district never emerged around the building. Even today, the nearest commercial area is Bloomfield Avenue a half-mile away.
However, North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos believes the neighborhood’s recent developments have given the area “momentum.” “We’re hopeful that in the next five years we’ll see more growth in this corridor,” said Ramos at the Lantana ribbon cutting.