City of Newark to Buy Back $61 Million in Properties Including Symphony Hall

Newark Symphony Hall Broad Street Newark
Newark Symphony Hall, Broad Street, Newark. Photo via Google Maps/Street View.

Although the City of Newark often makes headlines for selling some properties that it owns, officials in New Jersey’s largest city are now planning to buy plenty of properties from another government agency.

A new ordinance calls for having the city acquire $61 million worth of land and buildings from the Fairfield-based Essex County Improvement Authority (ECIA). The cost would be funded through bonds or notes of the city, according to Newark’s Legislative Research Center, and Newark officials have reportedly requested that the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ Local Finance Board waive a rule requiring a down payment of five percent on a purchase like this.

The deal would once again give the City of Newark the title to 16 properties, including some of the most notable landmarks and office buildings in town. For instance, should the ordinance be approved, the city would gain ownership of the historic Newark Symphony Hall near Lincoln Park, the Municipal Courthouse on Green Street, the old police headquarters at the Ralph A. Villani Memorial Building on Franklin Street, and the offices of the city’s Finance Department on Broad Street. Other properties included in the transaction include multiple fire and police stations in the city.

In addition to giving 16 lots to the city, the ECIA would be given ownership of several properties that are currently owned by City Hall, including the abandoned remains of a building at 451-459 West Market Street and a structure on South 16th Street.

This news comes several years after Newark sold these 16 properties to the ECIA in what has been described as a “sales-leaseback transaction.” As part of that deal, the agency issued $73 million worth of bonds as part of Newark’s budget relief, which caused Moody’s to downgrade the city’s credit rating in 2010.

The matter was approved by the Newark Municipal Council on first reading a few weeks ago. A public hearing on the matter is currently scheduled for Tuesday, November 27, at 10:00 a.m. before the council votes on whether to grant final passage.

Meanwhile, while Newark is planning to buy multiple tracts within city limits, the city is looking to sell some of its property in the suburbs. Even though Cedar Grove is close to ten miles northwest of City Hall, the City of Newark owns plenty of lots in this Essex County township because the Cedar Grove Reservoir is part of the Newark Watershed.

Now, four wooded properties that are located across Ridge Road from the reservoir could be transferred from the City of Newark to the Borough of Cedar Grove for $11.5 million, according to a legal notice. The 53.60 acres are expected to be preserved as open space following the transaction, which requires final approval from the Newark Municipal Council during its meeting on December 5.


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