NEWARK, NJ — Nearly three acres of city-owned property near West Side High School is planned to receive major redevelopment improvements after several decades of neglect. 

As a result of contributions from various community stakeholders and a competitive bid process which evaluated proposals submitted by 12 developers, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced on Wednesday that two developer partnerships - RPM and Urban League of Essex County and MCI Development Inc. and Richman Affordable Housing Corporation - will head the city’s Fairmount Commons Redevelopment Plan. 

The redevelopment area is a grouping of city-owned lots in addition to lots transferred to the city by the New Jersey School Development Authority, which consists of two blocks in the West Ward’s Fairmount Heights neighborhood between South Orange Avenue and 13th Avenue, from South 11th Street to West Side High School and Fairmount Cemetery,

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“The Fairmount Commons redevelopment project is another step forward in our equitable growth focus on neighborhoods that suffer from disinvestment and have not yet benefited from Newark’s ongoing revitalization,” Baraka said. “It represents a collaboration involving the Fairmount community, local developers and Newark’s community-oriented team of city planners.”

The redevelopment plan was completed in the fall of 2019, which included vital input on the local level from residents, neighborhood businesses, and institutions, including West Side High School, during the preparation of the plan. The purpose of public input was “to ensure that redevelopment of the area meets the community’s needs,” city officials said. 

With an expectation to bring reinvestment to an area that has been otherwise dilapidated for decades, city officials said the project is aimed to revitalize the South Orange Avenue commercial corridor.

Key features of the project include a total investment of $60 million in the redevelopment area; a conversion of 42 vacant city-owned lots into predominantly affordable housing; three lots adjacent to West Side High and South Orange Avenue to be used as public park space and additional ground-level retail space along 13th Avenue and 11th Street. 

“It will create a safe, livable, affordable and sustainable neighborhood with new one, two and three-family housing to encourage local homeownership, mixed-use buildings with a variety of local retail and commercial spaces to attract industry, essential educational and recreational facilities such as a 7,985-square-foot early childhood development center, open green space, and streetscapes that enhance and showcase the neighborhood’s natural assets,” officials said.

“It will restore and strengthen the traditional three-family residential blocks by increasing housing density, incorporating educational resources that leverage the proximity to West Side High School’s community programming and use land more productively, while preserving the feel of the surrounding neighborhood," officials added. 

The project is also planned to create affordable homeownership opportunities by constructing 28 three-family homes targeting low- to moderate-income families within 65% to 75% of Area Median Income (AMI). 

The development could also boost the area’s affordable rental housing stock with three mixed-use buildings comprised of 142 residential units – of which approximately 50% will be affordable at a range of 30% to 80% of AMI – as well as 15,000-plus-square-feet of commercial space.