NEWARK, NJ - In 1929, New Jersey Bell Telephone Company President Chester Barnard knew the Art Deco building that would headquarter his company at 540 Broad St. would withstand the test of time.
“A thing of beauty, it is built not only for today, but to meet the requirements of the expanding future,” Barnard said at the grand opening of the building 90 years ago. “It is a result of what has been taking place in New Jersey and anticipates what will come to pass.”
Turns out, he was right.
Today, city officials beckoned in the adaptive reuse of the building, but not as a powerful symbol representing the advancement of telephone landlines this time around. It was heralded as an example of where nonprofits and businesses coexist with luxury and affordable housing.
“One of the things this building represents is the extraordinary assets that exist in this city,” said L+M Managing Director Jonathan Cortell. “...I believe there is much more that remains possible in this city.”
The $120 million development is a joint venture between L+M Development Partners, Prudential Financial and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group. The project was dubbed Walker House after the late Ralph T. Walker, who designed the 21-story tower.
The building was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and many original features still remain. Bronzework over doors is still visible and a terrazzo mural by Alred E. Floegel sits on the wall. It features a man holding a telephone handset and cables circling a globe.
The massive rehabilitation of the building began before the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance was in place. Still, 20 percent of 263 units were set aside for those who make between 40 and 50% of the area's median income, the mayor said.
“Affordable housing is definitely a need in our city,” said Central Ward Councilwoman LaMonica McIver. “I'm grateful for partners like L+M who notice that we need affordable housing in our city and are not scared to do that.”
Studios not set aside for affordable housing go for about $2,050 a month, while three bedrooms can be rented for about $4,095, according to a building tour guide.
The building will have retail space that includes a rock climbing gym, UPS store and a local brewery company.
Per Scholas, a national tech training nonprofit teaches classes at 540 Broad St. Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign headquarters are also located in the building and Verizon's regional offices remain.
“It's a beautiful addition to a downtown that is becoming live and well and bustling in the City of Newark,” said Mayor Ras Baraka.
This is the second adaptive reuse project from L+M Development, a company official said. The same developers also took on the Hahne & Co. building project, which features office space, housing and retail space like Whole Foods.
“We work in a lot of different locations and we feel we've got a city administration that really backs the effort for mixed income, mixed-use housing,” said L+M Chief Executive Officer Ron Moelis.
The project received a 25-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program from the city, said L+M Director Sam Chapin. It also received $14 million in historic preservation tax credits and $6 million in low-income housing tax credits. A $15 million loan from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency was also secured, Chapin said.
L+M Development and Prudential Impact Investments is also working on its Georgia King Village project in the West Ward. All 420 units will remain affordable to families earning no more than 60% of the area median income.
The same two entities are also involved in a project at 31 Central Ave.