Construction could begin soon on a celebrity-involved development in Newark that Jersey Digs has been following for years.
Essex County native Dana Owens, also known as Queen Latifah, is moving forward with the proposed mixed-use complex near the Irvington border. A total of 76 units are planned for 650-656 Springfield Avenue and several neighboring properties along 19th Avenue, South 16th Street, and South 17th Street.
16 of those units are expected to be classified as “affordable housing” and will be situated in a three-story building at the corner of Springfield Avenue and South 17th Street, according to a statement that was issued last week. The building is also expected to include a fitness center and 1,900 square feet of ground floor space for local non-profit organizations.
The statement confirmed the plans that we told you about in December for townhouses on part of the premises. Each of the 20 townhouses is slated to include three units, all of which will be market-rate rentals.
Construction is expected to begin by August of this year, according to project spokesperson Fran Sullivan. The townhouses are slated to be completed by December 2020 while the 16-unit building is set to be finished one year later.
Queen Latifah is involved in this project through the Blue Sugar Corporation, which is registered out of the same Monmouth Junction address as Queen Latifah, Inc. Shakim Compere and Queen Latifah, both of whom also founded the Flavor Unit Entertainment production company, are listed in the statement as the co-presidents of Blue Sugar Corporation. The company is working with GonSosa Development of Union County on this development.
The statement also mentioned that the project has not yet been named. When this development was first revealed in 2016, it was referred to as Rita Gardens. Queen Latifah’s mother, Rita Owens, passed away in 2018.
Initially, the project was expected to consist of two mixed-use buildings with a total of 115 apartments and plenty of “affordable housing.” However, changes were proposed late last year to the Newark Central Planning Board that involved the addition of townhouses to the project with one smaller mixed-use building.
When asked about the reason for the change, Sullivan told Jersey Digs that “the developers originally applied for the low-income tax credit that was denied by the state,” adding that this denial prompted a redesign of the project into a market-rate development.
Queen Latifah is not the only celebrity from Essex County involved in Newark real estate. Shaquille O’Neal’s first “Shaq Tower” high-rise development at the site where Science High School used to stand in Downtown Newark is nearing completion while a second tower is in the works for a property at the corner of McCarter Highway and Market Street a few blocks away.