Jersey Digs reported last September that Dana Elaine Owens, best known as Queen Latifah, is proposing a project called Rita Gardens for the Springfield Avenue corridor in Newark’s South Ward. Now, plans for the project are moving forward.
According to a legal notice, 650 Springfield Ave, LLC has applied to the Newark Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) for variances regarding the two-building project. One of the buildings is slated to be a four-story mixed-use structure with 59 residential units and 28 surface parking spaces, while the other is set to be five stories tall and include 56 residential units, with 30 parking spaces provided in a garage on the ground floor.
A presentation published by the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation in 2016 stated that GS Developers and Queen Latifah were behind the project. A source familiar with the development, who request anonymity, confirmed to Jersey Digs that GonSosa Development of Union County, which is listed on its website as being affiliated with GS Developers, will partner with Queen Latifah for the project. According to the source, the buildings will also include a theater room, a community room, a fitness center, a patio area, and free Wi-Fi for residents when completed in 2018.
Records from the State of New Jersey show that 650 Springfield Ave, LLC was registered in February 2016 out of Monmouth Junction, a small Middlesex County community where Queen Latifah owns a house, according to Variety.
The development proposal calls for developing the buildings on several lots, including 650-656 Springfield Avenue and 718-722 South 17th Street, many of which are vacant and currently owned by the City of Newark. However, a few of the tracts are owned by the Blue Sugar Corporation, according to city records, which is registered out of the same Monmouth Junction address as Queen Latifah, Inc.
The properties are located near the Irvington border, just a few blocks from West Side Park and the recently-opened Save-A-Lot supermarket. NJ Transit’s go25 express bus service to Newark Penn Station and the Irvington Bus Terminal serves the area, in addition to Bus 25 to Maplewood and Bus 96 to Roseville and Chancellor Avenues.
An Essex County native, Queen Latifah was born in Newark, and was raised in neighboring East Orange. She attended Shiloh Baptist Church in Bloomfield, according to New Jersey Monthly, and graduated from Irvington High School, where her mother, Rita Owens, was a teacher. Whether or not Rita Gardens is named for Owens is not yet clear. Latifah’s Flavor Unit production company was headquartered in Jersey City for nearly 20 years before relocating to Florida.
Representatives from GonSosa Construction and Development and Queen Latifah did not return requests for comment. The Newark ZBA will hear the proposal during its meeting on Thursday, February 23rd at 7:00pm at City Hall.