A politically connected New Brunswick developer could soon gain ownership of two properties alongside an upcoming phase of Newark’s Riverfront Park.
An affiliate of Boraie Development is planning to acquire 930 McCarter Highway and 10-18 Passaic Place, which are located in the Central Ward near the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the FBI’s Newark office. Currently, both lots are owned by the Newark Housing Authority (NHA), but a legal notice from the city clerk’s office states that the NHA is planning to sell the premises to the city.
An ordinance approving the sale was already passed on first reading by the Newark Municipal Council during a special meeting on May 30, according to the notice, and could be finally approved during the council’s meeting on June 20.
While the eastern portion of the sites would be used to construct the upcoming phases of Riverfront Park, “the City does not require the entirety of the properties for the riverfront walkway,” according to the notice, which adds that it was “previously determined that the development of the remaining portions of the properties as a mixed-use project would best facilitate the riverfront walkway project and the redevelopment of the entire area in accordance with the redevelopment plan.”
While it is not listed when such a determination was made, the notice states that Newark Waterfront Associates, LLC, which is registered out of Boraie Development’s offices, has already been designated as the property’s exclusive redeveloper and that a redevelopment agreement between the city and the company was entered in December. As part of the ordinance, the city would pay $1.25 million to the NHA for both properties and then immediately sell them, with the exception of the Riverfront Park site, for the same price to Newark Waterfront Associates, LLC.
Although the ordinance states that a mixed-use project is planned for the sites, no other details are provided about what Boraie Development is currently proposing. However, it appears that this is the same project mentioned by company vice president Wasseem Boraie in a letter that was included in Newark’s application for Amazon’s second headquarters. In the letter, which was addressed to Jorge Santos of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, Boraie stated that the company is working on a “200 residential unit project…in coordination with the City of Newark” that “will further energize the downtown core near Penn Station.”
This deal comes eight months after the Newark Municipal Council adopted a separate resolution authorizing the sale of these properties for a “redevelopment project for residential, retail, and offices uses.” At the time, the resolution stated that the project would include market-rate units, retail space, and on-site parking. Plus, it mentioned that in 2016, Boraie Development entered into a settlement agreement with the city because of litigation in which “Boraie agreed to the release of its redevelopment rights within Mulberry Commons Park” and “the City agreed to designate” the company as the redeveloper of these two lots.
While it is unclear how tall the proposed mixed-use project is expected to be, new legislation that specifically mentioned these properties when it was written last year allows buildings to be up to 25 stories high. Among other changes to the area’s zoning, the amendment to the Newark’s River Public Access and Redevelopment Plan reclassified the lots from being open space districts to Mixed-Use 2 districts, allowing for “medium density, residential, office, [and] retail.”
Boraie Development is no stranger to developing in the city. The company, in partnership with Shaquille O’Neal, developed the CityPlex 12 movie theater on Springfield Avenue and is in the process of constructing the 21-story “Shaq Tower” on Rector Street.
A legal notice says that the city was planning to apply on June 5 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for $2.5 million in Section 108 loan guarantee funds for the latter project, stating in part that “the plan combines both new construction and historical rehabilitation of existing historical artifacts.” “Shaq Tower” was initially supposed to be built atop the historic Science High School, but the company tore the building down without the proper permits, according to records from the Newark Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission.
In addition, after the company’s proposed office tower at 777 McCarter Highway never ended up being constructed, Boraie Development revealed in April that it is partnering with O’Neal again to build a 300-unit building at the site.
The Boraies have also donated thousands of dollars over the years to Garden State Democratic political campaigns, according to filings from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Wasseem Boraie served on Governor Phil Murphy’s transition team and was nominated by the governor in April to serve on the State Investment Council. Murphy spoke just six days earlier alongside Mayor Ras Baraka and Deputy Mayor Carmelo Garcia at the topping off ceremony of “Shaq Tower.”
Jersey Digs has reached out to Boraie Development to learn more about the upcoming project, but our repeated requests for comment have not been returned. Jersey Digs has filed a public records request with the City of Newark to obtain additional information about developments that the company is involved in and will continue to update you as new details are revealed.