Newark, NJ—Two groundbreaking ceremonies held Wednesday are the latest indication that Dr. Martin Luther Kind Boulevard is changing.

Mayor Ras J. Baraka told TAPinto Newark that while MLK Blvd. represents despair in other places, the City of Newark is fighting to change that perception.

“We’re developing MLK Blvd.,” Baraka said. “We’re trying to change that.”

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Part of that change is the NJIT Campus Gateway MLK Project which will include 99 market rate studio, one and two bedroom apartments, 1,300 square feet of retail space and 100 parking spaces for tenants and patrons.

On Wednesday morning Baraka and other officials met for a groundbreaking ceremony at 240 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. The project is expected to be completed by 2020.

“It’s an example of a university town expanding,” said Baraka. “You see and know Newark is a college town.”

NJIT President Joel Bloom said there is an increase in demand from people wanting to move to the University Heights area.

“This is a very desirable area to live and learn,” Bloom said. “It’s an ideal location. There’s a lot here. It’s close to transportation.”

The second groundbreaking held down the street at at 111 Central Ave. right off of MLK Blvd. was for GlassRoots, a nonprofit that provides glass-making programs for disengaged youth.

“There are two keys. Collaboration is one and art is the other,” Baraka said. “Art is going to revitalize our city. Art draws people together.”

Both projects flank Saint Michael's Medical Center, with the NJIT project to the north of the hospital campus and the GlassRoots project actually inside a no-longer-used section of the hospital at the corner of MLK Blvd. and Central Avenue.

"As the hospital in the heart of Newark's business and academic community, Saint Michael's is thrilled to see the progress taking place in our neighborhood," said Robert Iannaccone, the CEO of Saint Michael's. "As Newark continues to grow and flourish, Saint Michael's will be here to continue to provide the high quality healthcare that this community deserves."

Barbara Heisler, CEO of GlassRoots referred to the organization’s move and expansion as the “anchor” of the redevelopment projects taking place on MLK Blvd.

“This project is important for GlassRoots, our youth, and the city,” Heisler said. “It’s another shining light for people to understand the jewel that is Newark.”

GlassRoots will occupy the first floor of the original Saint Michael's Hospital, which was built in 1871 at the corner of what was then High Street and Central Avenue. The building has sat vacant for numerous years as Saint Michael's grew and expanded into the modern facilities that the thriving hospital occupies today.

When Prime Healthcare purchased Saint Michael's Medical Center in May 2016 out of bankruptcy from Trinity Health, it did not acquire the building. The property was acquired in January 2017 by real estate developers Jeffrey Crum, director of real estate at the Community Asset Preservation Corporation (CAPC); Anthony Gibbons of Crawford Street Partners; and the Hanini Group.

Through a partnership with the City of Newark, New Jersey Community Capital, Hanini Brothers, Crawford Street Partners and private and nonprofit investors, the 90,000-square-foot building will be renovated to create a large new space for GlassRoots and the Common, essentially upscale adult dorm style housing for business people making a median income of $50,000 annually. At the Common people will get an individual private space and will share common areas.

"The Central Ward will continue to be the Gateway to Newark's future," said Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, who is running for mayor against Baraka. "The Glassroots project is just evidence of that. Live, work and play is no longer a slogan, but a reality."

Joshua Toler, 20, a former Uplift Academy student said participating in GlassRoots for three months led to a new, deep interest in the arts.

“I feel like it opened my eyes to a completely different world I never even knew existed,” Toler told Tapinto Newark.  

Heisler said the expansion will allow GlassRoots to reach even more young people than before.

Heisler and Baraka both said GlassRoots will serve as an economic development driver. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“We thank you for being a part of Newark’s forward motion,” Baraka said.