Are Changes in Store for Queen Latifah’s Newark Development?

Rita Gardens Queen Latifah Newark Development Projects
An old rendering of the project via Newark CEDC.

While real estate development might not come to mind when you think of Queen Latifah, it was revealed two years ago that the Essex County native was partnering with GS Developers and GonSosa Development to create a new mixed-use complex called Rita Gardens in Newark’s South Ward. The project called for 650 Springfield Ave, LLC to construct two buildings, one of which was expected to be four stories tall and include 59 apartments while the other was slated to be five stories tall and feature 56 units. A page about the development from Dresdner Robin featured renderings of the design and stated that the site “had languished for years, [but] its potential for redevelopment is finally being fulfilled.”

650 Springfield Avenue Newark 1
Old elevation of the project. Rendering via Dresdner Robin.

However, construction never began at the site, which consists of 650-656 Springfield Avenue and several nearby lots on 19th Avenue, South 16th Street, and South 17th Street. Even though in 2017, an affordable housing agreement was adopted between the City of Newark and a Monmouth Junction-based LLC and the Newark Zoning Board of Adjustment heard the plans for the project, the premises have continued to remain vacant.

650 Springfield Avenue Newark 2
Old elevation of the project. Rendering via Dresdner Robin.

Now, another project could be constructed on the same tracts where Rita Gardens was expected to be built. A legal notice issued at the end of November shows that there are now plans for 17 lots in the vicinity to be merged and then subdivided into five lots. One of those lots would include a three-story mixed-use building that would consist of 10 apartments.

Each of the other properties would contain townhomes, each of which would be three stories tall and have room for three families. One of the lots is expected to include six townhomes while two would include five townhomes each. The last lot would contain four townhomes if the development is approved.

The project also calls for rehabilitating a six-unit building at 710 South 17th Street, which stands as an island of sorts surrounded by several empty tracts.

The Newark Central Planning Board is expected to hear the LLC’s application for Preliminary and Final Site Plan approval, Preliminary and Final Major Subdivision approval, and parking-related variances during its meeting on Monday, December 17 at 6:30 p.m.

It is not yet known how the units in the new development would be priced should the project move forward. One of the buildings in the Rita Gardens development was expected to include 58 “affordable” units, according to city records, five of which were expected to be reserved for people experiencing homelessness.

Queen Latifah’s involvement in this new development is also not yet clear. City tax filings show that while some of the properties in question are still in City Hall’s hands, others are owned by the Blue Sugar Corporation, which is registered out of the same Monmouth Junction, Middlesex County address that has been used by Queen Latifah, Inc. In addition, a company called 650 Springfield Ave Urban Renewal, LLC, which was the LLC that the City of Newark was slated to execute an agreement with back in 2017, is also registered out of that same address in Monmouth Junction.


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