NEWARK, NJ - The first phase of a park that was supposed to be built to coincide with the opening of Prudential Center in 2007 has finally been completed to much fanfare.
Mulberry Commons, formerly known as Triangle Park, was ushered in today by city officials and developers. The city spent about $10 million to create the park, the city’s project manager said.
The whole project represents a public-private partnership, with investors expected to spend about $100 million in the surrounding area on Mulberry Street between Edison Place and Lafayette Street.
“The impact that it's going to have is going to last generations,” Mayor Ras Baraka said. “...Because what you see is a park. What you don't see is all of the development that will take place because of this park.”
The second phase of the project will include a pedestrian bridge that connects Penn Station and the Ironbound neighborhood to the park, which sits just across the street from the Prudential Center. The Peter Francisco Park will also see improvements.
The project was held up for years due to competing designs and plans. The city wanted to implement a plan that would incorporate businesses that would bring in ratables.
"I'm thrilled to finally see what was once a vast parking lot come to life today as a beautiful park that will be enjoyed by residents and visitors of our great city for generations to come," said North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. "This park truly has the power to transform our city by attracting even more investment, creating jobs and providing additional housing, shopping and recreational opportunities."
The Ironside building, which is slated to be used as office space for Mars Wrigley, sits adjacent to the park and will also include retail space. The Ironside building is an Edison Properties project.
Waseem Boraie, who is vice president of the company that is developing the Shaq Tower on Rector Street nearby the park, said Mulberry Commons taps into the city’s soul. Boraie Development was reportedly once involved in plans for the park.
“I think this project, out of all the projects we're doing in Newark, we always thought this was probably the most important because a city is not just buildings,” Boraie said. “It's not just retail. It's not just educational facilities. It's also about a city's soul.”
Gabriel Lopez, a principal at J&L Companies, joked that he was in high school when the idea for the park first began. J&L Companies is working on a 400-unit mixed-use building in the city’s Ironbound at 28 McWhorter St., also known as the 55 Union Street project.
“Decades in the making, this public-private redevelopment is breathing new life into the downtown and the Ironbound,” Lopez said. “Combined with future projects - like our forthcoming 400-unit residential building 55 Union - Newark is evolving into a denser, safer, more interactive city.”
NJ Devils President Hugh Weber quipped that it took an army of passionate - and at times opinionated - people to create the park.
“This park represents way more than just a swath of land between Prudential Center and the train station where 2 million might visit for an event,” Weber said. “This represents a catalyst for a neighborhood to develop and grow from the seeds [of] what is being created today.”
Mulberry Commons features a mostly concrete design with a slide and jungle gym. Sprinklers also jettison from the ground on the side closest to Prudential Center.
Sage and Coombe Architects and Supermass Studio Landscape Architects also worked on the project.