A faceless developer, without credentials in Newark or anywhere, quietly purchased two vibrant buildings at the corner of Central Avenue and Broad Street, exposed them to hazardous weather and deterioration for two years, pushed out seven long-time local businesses, paid for politically connected helpers, enlisted a former planning officer to bully the Landmark and Historic Preservation Commission for demolition, and proposed a 45-story “luxury” rental building out of context with the surrounding historic districts.
Categorically rejecting all community input, the developer has repeatedly attempted to circumvent the Commission review and managed to list the proposal on the Central Planning Board agendas, sometimes only hours before the hearing. Now, the project is has been approved by the CPB without an approval by the Landmarks Commission required by law. We are ready to challenge the application in the public, or in the court.
For the record, we are against this highly speculative project for following reasons: 1. The project defies the time-tested downtown development strategies with federal and state historic credits for businesses, institutions, responsible developers, and residents. 2. The project intends for out-right removal of historic Broad Street properties, which has never happened by an individual developer. 3. The project applies a purchase-for-demolition scheme, a precedent that endangers the integrity of historic districts city-wide. 4. The project is against contextual fitness for historic districts protected by federal and local laws. 5. The project speculates on tax-abatement for decades without evidence of benefiting Newark tax payers. 6. The project squeezes a 45-story monstrosity in a footprint of 0.25 acre, without an inch of setbacks for the public and the fire department. 7. The project has not truthfully applied for all needed variances, such as curb cuts along the city thoroughfares. 8. The project is not in compliance with all federal and local regulations, such as FAA Flight Obstruction report.
Many Newarkers still have memories of the speculative downtown Renaissance Mall and Harry Grant’s 121-story building, which damaged our city for decades. Former Mayor James said, “When nobody loves us, anyone can sell us snake oil.” However, Downtown Newark has changed with painstaking efforts by institutions (e.g., Rutgers, NJPAC) and responsible developers (e.g., L&M, Hanini Groups, RBH). Moving forward, only a visionary city government and innovative communities can protect our gains and navigate through challenging times. In the end, as Mayor Baraka puts, “We want a just Newark, not another Brooklyn.”