Tour Highlights Downtown Newark Adaptive Reuse Projects

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downtown newark historic walking tourNewark’s history is one of the city’s most noteworthy aspects, making it especially attractive to both existing Newarkers, potential residents, community institutions, corporations, and developers. That was the theme of a tour held last Thursday in the downtown area of the state’s largest city.

Newark Military Park Historic District Walking Tour
Tour attendees gathered in Newark’s recently revitalized Military Park.

Attendees, including planners, Newark residents, and local history enthusiasts, explored several historic structures as part of the Newark Military Park Historic District Walking Tour, which was presented by Preservation New Jersey, the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association, and the RBH Group.

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The tour began in Military Park, which was recently revitalized by Biederman Redevelopment Ventures and now includes a carousel, an outdoor reading room, and the Burg restaurant. Stops on the tour included Rutgers University-Newark’s 15 Washington Apartments, which opened in 2015 within the 88-year-old American Insurance Company Building, and the university’s Express Newark facility, a three-story 50,000 square foot arts and culture incubator within the newly rehabilitated Hahne & Company Building on Broad Street.

Anne Schaper Englot, another one of the tour leaders and is the Co-Director of Express Newark, told Jersey Digs that tours such as this “give people an opportunity to appreciate all the beautiful architecture that exists in this city that’s been underappreciated in recent years.”

Express Newark, which is located alongside Whole Foods Market and upcoming locations of CityMD, Petco, City National Bank, and a restaurant owned by Marcus Samuelsson, includes spaces used by the Newark Print Shop, The Institute of Jazz Studies, The Paul Robeson Galleries, the Shine portrait studio, and Newest Americans.

There are also plans for a ‘Halsey Market’ within the building as well as a wine bar, according to Englot. The Hahne & Company Building is notable because of the skylight above the second floor that the retail space is built around. The skylight is original to the building, although it was located on the fourth floor when the building was used as a department store.

”In the past couple of years, we’ve seen an incredible transformation, and I think in five years, we’ll see an even more vibrant scene with a greater variety of different cultural artistic offerings for everybody to enjoy,” said Englot.

Ulana Zakalak of Zakalak Restoration Arts, who was one of the leaders of the tour, described how nearly a century ago, in the earlier years of the Hahne & Company department store, it was the first of the ‘Ladies’ Mile’ stores to have fixed prices as opposed to a haggling system. Ladies’ Mile was named because stores north of Raymond Boulevard, once the Morris Canal, were generally designed for women, while stores on the south side were for men.

First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church newark new jersey
Attendees visited the historic First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church, which was designed by local architect William Halsey Wood and is currently undergoing exterior renovations.

After visiting 15 Washington and Express Newark, attendees were provided with a rare look inside the lobby of New Jersey Bell Headquarters Building at 540 Broad Street, which is in the process of being converted from Verizon offices into 260 residential units and retail space. The tour finished at the First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church, which dates back nearly 130 years. It is currently undergoing exterior renovations.

New Jersey Bell Headquarters 540 broad st newark
One of the elevator banks within the New Jersey Bell Headquarters at 540 Broad Street, which is being converted into retail and residential uses.

Regarding 540 Broad Street and the Hahne & Company project, Zakalak told Jersey Digs that “they’re both key projects that we’ve been waiting a long time for because we’ve had a lot of smaller projects that really worked, but they were so isolated,” citing RockPlaza Lofts on Market Street as an example.

“You have ideal conditions for urban living here,” Zakalak added, citing Newark’s transportation access, fiber-optic network, history, and universities.

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