Just a decade ago, Halsey Street in Downtown Newark was a very different place. Lined with the abandoned S. Klein on the Square department store, boarded up vacant buildings, and private parking lots surrounded by barbed wire fences, a few small stretches of businesses were the only sign of commerce on the block. The only indication that Rutgers University’s Newark campus stood nearby was a sign for its gated parking lot between Linden and New Streets along the corridor and the view of the Law School clock tower in the distance.
Today, as Downtown Newark sees the most new development and rehabilitation projects since the early 20th century, Halsey Street is at the center of attention. From the Teachers Village community and the Halston Lofts project to the new Prudential tower, the Shoppes on Broad, and the Hahne & Company Building revitalization, the block is the “frontier of the new Newark,” as described by the Newest Americans project.
While Rutgers University-Newark’s sole presence on the street used to be the eastern entrance to a faculty parking lot, a decade later, the school’s Express Newark facility in the Hahne & Company Building brings students and Newarkers together to take part in the arts. Now, Rutgers University-Newark is beginning construction at the site of that parking lot on another development that is expected to be transformative for not only Halsey Street, but for campus-community relations in the city.
The institution is partnering with the RBH Group to create the new 320,000 square foot Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC) building, which is expected to be completed in the spring of 2018. The $70 million facility will include workspaces, classrooms, art spaces, conference rooms, an interfaith prayer space, and bedrooms for students in the HLLC.
The program is described by the university as “a transformative college access and success program that fosters the academic, social, and personal development of talented students from all walks of life with a desire to make a difference in their communities and beyond.” Although the program began with only 30 students in 2015, each class is expected to have 100 students beginning next year.
The new building will stretch south to north from Linden to New Streets and east to west from Halsey to Washington Streets, and will include a parking garage. According to the university, the development is expected to “honor and respect the historic architectural vocabulary of the James Street Commons Historic District” and “balance socialization and privacy for uniquely diverse students and cultures.”
Renderings for the project, which is being designed by Perkins Eastman, were recently released by Hudson Real Estate. The documents show that the building will be five stories tall, and will include 25,287 square feet of retail on the first floor of all four sides of the building, with 13 spaces in total. In addition, the HLLC facility is also slated to include a public piazza that will be designed by the Manhattan-based ICRAVE studio.
Just as projects like Teachers Village and the new Prudential tower spawned increasing development on Halsey Street, it is likely that the new HLLC will cause similar changes on the Washington Street corridor and other areas further west of Downtown Newark.