‘West Side Heights’ Revitalization Plans Move Forward In Newark

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newark real estate west side heights
Credit: Inglese Architecture

Plans are in the early stages for a project called West Side Heights in the city’s West Ward, which would transform close to three dozen properties that were conveyed for $1 earlier this year to the City of Newark by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) into a 407,591.78 square foot mixed-use community.

In an interview with Jersey Digs, Carmelo G. Garcia, the Executive Vice President and Chief Real Estate Officer of Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, said that in recent years, many of these properties have been “a cancer to the community,” which he described as a “food and medical desert.”

west side heights development plan newark

The properties in question are located just east of the 92-year-old West Side High School, hence the name ‘West Side Heights’, and according to Garcia, were originally set to be the site of new public schools developed by the SDA. For example, a 2009 presentation by the SDA stated that a new 260,000 square foot $160 million West Side High School campus and athletic complex was set to be completed by July 2014 but that “major renovation projects such as this are much more likely to experience cost overruns and significant delays due to unforeseen conditions”

Despite the project plans, construction never began on the new educational facilities, and the properties, which include lots at 381-395 South Orange Avenue and dozens of neighboring tracts along South 11th Street and South 12th Street, have been unutilized for the past several years. They include vacant lots, multiple abandoned homes covered with graffiti and boarded up windows, and two-story strip mall that previously contained Papa John’s Pizza, Ambassador Fish and Chicken, a tax service agency, and a pharmacy until being shut down in recent years,

“We needed to really develop a concept and a strategy that would revitalize those blocks in that area by virtue of meeting the needs and the demands of that community,” said Garcia. “That’s what we did.”

west side heights newark
Credit: Inglese Architecture

Garcia stated that West Side Heights could bring 53 new residences, which could include condominiums as well as single-family, two-family, and three-family homes as part of a staggered housing approach. The goal, according to Garcia, is to develop ‘villages’ within the complex, including an environmentally friendly/green village, a commuters village, and a village for Newark’s first responders and City employees.

“You’re going to get a great product for a great price and you’re going to be in a community that’s going to thrive off of its current public employees, commuters, millennials, and homeowners,” Garcia explained, adding that “you can’t beat that. That’s what really is community wealth building and neighborhood revitalization.”

Plus, City records show that a 5,000 square foot child care center operated by Newark Public Schools called the West Side Early Childhood Center will be included as part of the project. In addition, development renderings by Inglese Architecture + Engineering show that three mixed-use buildings containing commercial uses and medical offices are also planned for the premises.

First, however, before any construction can begin a project developer must be designated by the Newark Municipal Council as part of this public-private partnership. Subsequently, the site will have to undergo environmental remediation.

”This is a pioneering project that is going to be a true transformation for the West Ward,” Garcia said, envisioning the complex as part of the larger development boom in Newark. Garcia hopes that in a few years, from the site of a currently abandoned shopping center, “you could jump on a bus, get to Penn Station, get on the river and walk 17 acres of the newly developed Riverfront Park and then walk back home through Mulberry Commons Park.”

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10 COMMENTS

  1. This is awesome and would give the neighborhood a much needed boost! South Orange Avenue has so much potential and could look a lot like it does in South Orange. It’s great to see the City and developers finally recognizing the potential of the neighborhood. And it’s so close to downtown making it easily accessible to all the activities, shopping and restaurants etc. I can’t wait for construction to begin!

  2. This is great! The Urban League of Essex County has just received approval, through the Zoning Board of Adjustment to build 6 new homes on Fairmount Avenue just west of the major intersection of Bergen and South Orange Avenue. It is phase 1 of “The Heights on Fairmount Avenue” a 16 home 2 and 3 family home ownership project that will be a book end to the “West Side Heights” project in the Fairmount neighborhood. The project includes lighting, streetscape, landscape and facade improvements for the existing homeowners on the block. Construction is expected to start this spring.

    • Looking forward to this project too! I know a few people who are interested in buying in the area. How can they reach you?

  3. It’s Known All to well from just reading this Not one person in this article Know Nothing About this Area in Newark or Have watched or reade the News. That Area is a High Drug infested and shooting area. !!!!!!! And ( Who in there Right Mind ) is Going to walk from the River Front up South Orange Avenue to 11the Street !!!!! With out Getting Hit by a stolen car going 80 to 90 up and down 9th. Street 10th. Street 8th Street across South Orange Ave heading across town !!! Or getting Robbed!!! Or Shot!! I mean REALLY. !!! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE CLOUDS. and go and park YOUR CAR on South Orange Avenue and 10th street facing up or Down and just watch!!!!

  4. Georgia G.

    Mr. B, it will happen. It is called “Gentrification”. It has already started downtown and by Springfield Avenue. There will be more police presence, middle class, more diverse community (Caucasians, Indians, Asians, etc,) less crime and residents that take pride and care of where they live. In a few years Newark will be a great place to live. I can’t wait. Hate coming home to a blight neighborhood.

    • So true! Better neighborhoods begin with us. It cannot change if we don’t envision change and take action to make it better! We have to believe it can be better!

  5. I wonder how this project is moving along? Haven’t seen any developments since this article was posted, this development will really impact the neighborhood positively.

  6. It is happening. We just started a Business Improvement District called Partnership West, Inc. and South Orange Avenue is one of our corridors. We are starting with supplemental cleaning and beautification. We are also working with the police officers to fix cameras and install new ones on the avenue. Step by step. Check out our website at http://www.partnershipwestinc.org.

  7. This gentrification is not going to make anything better the same people that lived in that neighborhood would move somewhere worse and bring their problems with them

    They need to stop using gentrification as a way to “END” crime Cuz it’s not going to have a good end result they need to try to redevelop the city not get rid of its people

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