For several years, when riding a train on NJ TRANSIT’s Morris and Essex or Montclair-Boonton Lines into Downtown Newark, one has been greeted on the right with an abandoned building covered with graffiti, and often, scenes such as a broken bus on top of a pile of rubble, damaged cars and trucks piled on top of one another, and police vehicles, all in the shadow of the city’s skyline.
What once was a vibrant center of business and commerce in the heart of the Newark’s Central Ward is now literally used as a disaster training ground by first responders as part of the Newark Fire Department’s Special Operations Facility, the Newark Police Department (NPD), and the Newark Office of Emergency Management (OEM). The only residents at the site, known as Peddlers Square, are the horses from the Newark Police Department’s Mounted Unit.
Located at the corner of Orange and Nesbitt Streets, the property, which features views of the Manhattan skyline, has a long history, with several uses in the last two centuries. Once a market area with a variety of peddlers selling goods to Newark residents, the site was later used as a Borden milk and juice processing and packaging plant starting in 1928, and eventually became a housing component factory used by the New Community Corporation before its current use by the Newark Department of Public Safety (DPS) and NJ TRANSIT.
In 2008, the City of Newark’s Broad Street Station District Redevelopment Plan described the abandoned Borden building, which remains at the site, as “in a state of disrepair and many of its notable historical architectural features and elements have eroded,” adding that “there is widespread concern for properties which are run-down and vacant within the District as they are not only perceived as blight, but lead to serious problems such as attracting vermin and vagrants.”
Now, Jersey Digs has exclusively learned that there are preliminary plans to revitalize the roughly six-acre site, though few details have been released so far.
In an interview with Jersey Digs, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka stated that “there are two different developers that I would not like to talk about who are trying to get that property, and it should be developed soon,” adding that “I know it’s going to be residential and commercial space as connected to the Baxter Terrace project over there,” referring to the planned redevelopment of the rest of the large vacant lot across Orange Street that contained a public housing complex with over 30 buildings from 1941 until it was demolished five years ago.
”We’ve laid out the site for purposes of continuing the downtown influx of mixed-use residential housing,” said Carmelo Garcia, the Executive Vice President and Chief Real Estate Officer of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, telling Jersey Digs that “the best use for the site, which we’ve been working towards, is to draw a big-box store with a residential component.”
There could be between 300 and 600 podium-style units on the property, which are expected to attract a mixture of people moving into Newark and existing residents looking to live in a more convenient location, since the Newark Broad Street Train Station and the Newark Light Rail are just a block away. The complex’s big-box store would likely be an ‘urban prototype’ location, somewhat similar to Target’s store in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood, and there would also be a mini-mall with up to ten stores on the premises. Having businesses at the site will be “sort of a replica of the past,” Garcia stated, since the Peddlers Square name comes from the market that was once situated there.
”We’ve had great interest in the site, especially after we came back from ICSC,” Garcia said, referring to the recent International Council of Shopping Centers RECon convention.
Whatever organization is selected to redevelop the Peddlers Square property would pay for a relocation of the DPS facilities that are currently located on the premises, according to Garcia.
”It’s urbanization at its best,” he explained, adding that the development “would really provide a neighborhood feel and continue to build on the community’s assets.”