Newark has recently seen major residential development projects to bring more people into Downtown. Now, the new community that could soon rise at the site of the Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium will bring many different uses in addition to residential to one space at 450 Broad Street.
Last year, it was revealed that Lotus Equity Group would be acquiring the eight-acre property, which has frontage on McCarter Highway. It is situated very close to the Newark Broad Street Train Station, the Bridge Street Bridge to Harrison, the Riverfront Stadium Newark Light Rail Station, Washington Park, and Interstate 280. Now, more details are known about what Lotus is intending to do with the property.
In an interview with Jersey Digs, Lotus Equity Group founder Ben Korman stated that there are plans for 1,400 residential units, 400,000 square feet of office space that he expects to be largely occupied by tech sector businesses, 25,000 square feet of dedicated live-work maker spaces for local artists and artisans, 2,000 parking spaces, and three acres of public space. He stated that he chose the property because of its large size, its proximity to the Rutgers Business School and Audible facilities at One Washington Park, and because there are not yet significant housing developments of this size that would compete.
His firm recently selected a team of architects, each assigned to different aspects of the project, including the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), Michael Green Architecture, TEN Arquitectos, and Minno & Wasko Architects and Planners.
“What we’ve seen in the last few years is that people have been clustering into cities like New York and San Francisco and those cities, as a consequence, have become really unaffordable, so what is great about working on a project in Downtown Newark of this magnitude is that it will present a really great alternative for city living,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, the founder of PAU.
According to Chakrabarti, Phase 1 of the project will include at least three main structures, including the residential West Building along Atlantic Street, PAU’s North Building closer to Broad Street, and TEN Arquitectos’ East Building, the latter of which will be designed with the nearby Passaic River in mind and will include housing and communal space. The North Building is expected to be around 15 stories tall, and would include close to 700 residential units and retail space that would mostly be occupied by local businesses.
The project “represents a turning point in bringing population back to the Central Ward,” explained Chakrabarti, who described how he and Korman explored projects in Copenhagen and Berlin for inspiration in order “to get away from the New York glass tower model of how we build these kinds of projects and look at some of the other ideas that are coming out of Europe and so forth.”
However, there will be far more than just residential, retail, and office space under this proposal. Two decades ago, officials with Essex County and the City of Newark tried to attract visitors to this part of Newark with baseball by constructing the stadium on this site for the Newark Bears, Rutgers University-Newark, and New Jersey Institute of Technology baseball teams. Now, the redevelopers of the property are looking for other amenities that will bring visitors in from across the city and the region.
“We would like to see a use that would be a destination,” said Korman, mentioning that such a use could include a food hall similar to Manhattan’s Essex Street Market or a bowling alley similar to Brooklyn Bowl.
Chakrabarti stated that the food hall would be “authentic” and would feature Newark-based food vendors, adding that bringing food trucks onto the property is also a possibility.
“This place has incredible culture,” said Chakrabarti. “That culture is really reflected in the project and the design of the project.”
Most of the development would be built around a central piazza that would be the main feature of the complex, according to Korman, who said that the space would be open to the public “so that it’s not just a neighborhood amenity but it also serves the rest of the city.”
There are also plans in the works for a car-share program for residents since the current proposal would allow one car for every two units. Plus, the open space on the premises would feature programming that would be open to the Newark community, and some sort of performing arts venue is also proposed. Chakrabarti said that there could possibly be a “small cultural building” on the Broad Street side of the property near the Newark Light Rail station “that would be a nice front door for the entire project.” The station is not expected to be relocated in order to make way for the new community.
Developers say that they are hoping to attract a diverse group of residents to the new community, from longtime Newarkers to residents of New York City who work might work at Hudson Yards near New York Penn Station.
“We see this as a project that will attract, in many different ways, the local community as well people that come from the outside,” Korman said, explaining that “there are about 100,000 people that work in Newark who live elsewhere, so we would love to see people work in Newark who live in Newark, and we would also like to see people who [currently] live in Newark to come to this project as well.”
According to Chakrabarti, he and Korman went on a “listening tour” around Newark to hear what Newarkers felt the city needed and did not need, and one result of the tour is that the property will become very pedestrian friendly.
Many City and County officials have expressed enthusiasm over this new development, which does not yet have a name.
“We’re excited about the progress that we’ve made there,” said Carmelo Garcia, the Executive Vice President and Chief Real Estate Officer of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, citing the property’s location in context with the other facilities in the area. “When you have the transportation, education, medical, and technology all in the same thread, it’s only going to make it that much more successful,” he explained.
The project has yet to be heard by the Newark Central Planning Board or the Newark Zoning Board of Adjustment. Korman said that he predicts that construction could begin as soon as the third quarter of 2018, and stated that it is still under assessment whether Lotus will apply for incentives such as tax abatements.
In the late 20th and early 21st century, Hoboken and Jersey City were the main New Jersey cities in the New York Metropolitan Areas to see major development projects, but with all of the new proposals being announced on a regular basis in Newark, it is clear that the state’s largest city will continue to grow.
“I think it’s really important to be focusing on places that have been too long neglected by my profession and other professions,” said Chakrabarti. “This is a prime moment to see this incredibly important place in the eastern seaboard build on all of the other successes that it has accomplished to date.”