Zoning Changes Could Bring Taller Buildings Near Newark’s Waterfront

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newark waterfront rezoningThe proposal earlier this summer to change zoning restrictions in one part of Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood will not be the only modification that City officials are planning to make to such regulations.

According to City records, an amendment is planned to Newark’s River Public Access and Redevelopment Plan in order to allow buildings to be up to 25 stories tall where only 10-story structures are permitted at this time and to allow 40-story high-rises where buildings only up to 30 floors are currently allowed. This impacts sections of the city close to the Passaic River, specifically parts of the Ironbound close to Market Street and Raymond Boulevard, the eastern area of Downtown Newark near Route 21/McCarter Highway, and the area of Lower Broadway by the river that is south of Clay Street.

Newark's River Public Access and Redevelopment Plan
Newark’s River Public Access and Redevelopment Plan | Credit: City of Newark

Plus, the plans also call for reclassifying the properties at 930 McCarter Highway and 10-18 Passaic Place, which are owned by the Newark Housing Authority (NHA), from being open space districts into Mixed-Use 2, which permits “medium density, residential, office, [and] retail.” Similarly, the properties west of Market Street in the East Ward between Raymond Boulevard and Jefferson Street would be converted from Mixed-Use 1 into Mixed-Use 2. The tracts containing private parking lots at addresses such as 994-998 Raymond Boulevard and 183-197 Commerce Street at would be converted from Mixed-Use 2 into Mixed-Use 3 (MX-3), which includes “high-density residential, office, and retail.”

The ordinance states that “it has been determined by the Planning Department and the Department of Economic and Housing Development that the redevelopment area and the economic vitality of the City will be enhanced by the proposed amendment.”

The proposed amendment was approved by the Newark Central Planning Board during its meeting on August 7th and was passed on first reading by the Newark Municipal Council during its special meeting on August 22nd. It still must receive final approval before it is adopted.

Newark Riverfront Park Expansion map
Newark Riverfront Park Expansion map | Credit: Newark Riverfront Revival

This news comes as Newark’s riverfront is seeing redevelopment for the first time in decades after resident access to it was largely blocked or restricted. The first phase of the Essex County-owned Riverfront Park along Raymond Boulevard and the Passaic River has been open for several years now. Construction is also underway to expand the recreation area further upriver, first past Newark Penn Station to the Bridge Street Bridge, and then all the way north to 4th Avenue in the North Ward. The existing park regularly hosts events such as concerts, boat rides, and kayak tours.

The expanded park, which is being designed by High Line architect James Corner, will include a boathouse, a floating dock, a stage, an amphitheater, a beach area, pathways for pedestrians and bikes, playgrounds, athletic fields, and more. In order to develop this “world-class waterfront park,” the City is planning to gain ownership of property along the waterfront “by purchase or condemnation,” including a lot on Jersey Street.

In June, plans by the City to create MX-3 zoning just east of Newark Penn Station in a small portion of the Ironbound were made public. As part of the plans, high-rise multifamily buildings could be built up to 15 stories tall on several properties that currently only permit structures up to eight floors high. The proposal, which was supported by nearly the entire Newark Municipal Council and Mayor Ras Baraka, still requires approval from the Newark Central Planning Board for it to move forward.

It has been opposed, however, by many local activists and groups, including the Ironbound Community Corporation, PLANewark, and The Newark Advocates, largely due to concerns over a possible decline in affordable housing availability in the neighborhood. For example, the NHA is still seeking to demolish the 275-unit Terrell Homes public housing complex near the Passaic River, and the agency has already demolished or closed several other housing developments across the city, including Baxter Terrace and Felix Fuld Court. Nearly 15,000 people are currently on the NHA’s wait list, according to records from the authority.

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