Yesterday marked a milestone for the City of Newark, as One Theater Square—the first new upscale residential high-rise to be built in the city since 1960—celebrated its topping-off ceremony at 2 Center Street in the heart of the city's downtown district.
Recognized as the most luxurious residential development in the city’s history, the 22-story building, located on a 1.2-acre site directly across from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, has already begun to transform the city’s Arts district, providing jobs and boosting local businesses.
The project represents the culmination of a three-decade effort to bring a new vision of Newark to fruition.
The building is slated to open in the summer of 2018, with the high-rise expected be the centerpiece of a neighborhood that has grown up around NJPAC.
One Theater will be comprised of 245 studio, one, two and three-bedroom apartments, ranging in size from 585 to 1,700 square-feet. Twenty-four of the units are designated affordable housing units.
The building will include five-star amenities, including a 24-hour concierge, signature restaurant, fitness center, outdoor deck a three-story parking garage.
The ground floor will include 16,000 feet of retail space, with parameters established to limit those to upscale retailers to further enhance the neighborhood.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka joined project developer CEO and founder of Dranoff Peoperties Carl Dranoff, NJPAC CEO John Schreiber, state and local officials, business leaders and the project’s trade and construction workers atop the high-rise for the signing of a 30-foot ceremonial steel beam by 90 workers and 50 dignitaries to be included in the structure as a time capsule honoring their combined efforts.
Special mention was made of project workers Keesha Green, a 20-year ironworker who worked on the project and was noted as the first female ironworker in her union, along with Darrel Coleman, a laborer and shop steward on the job site since the groundbreaking a year ago.
Dranoff noted the “blood, sweat and tears” of those that helped bring the project to completion.
“Today we celebrate this milestone by honoring the men and women who got us here,” Dranoff said.
Active efforts to develop One Theater Square started in 2005, with funding received at the time to help cover certain predevelopment costs.
Dranoff Properties was selected as the developer in 2008 as the result of a competitive request for proposals, with the developer working with NJPAC since that time to advance the project to completion.
“One Theater Square draws upon our extensive experience developing large-scale residential properties in arts and cultural districts that help transform neighborhoods into vibrant communities,” Dranoff said. “The striking look of its curved glass front and 22-impressive stories signals a new era for Newark, blending its rich history with a bold, new vision for its future. With our topping off completed we look forward to opening our doors to apartment residents and retailers beginning in early summer.”
The city has seen a revitalization in recent years with the development of new and innovative mixed-use projects such as the Hahne's building and Teachers Village, with many more in the works.
Dranoff noted that the project has had steady partners throughout several administrations, beginning with former mayors Sharpe James and Cory Booker.
Baraka said that the completion of the project signified a touchdown for the city.
“This building is going to have one of the most profound impacts the city has had,” he said.
Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins said the project caps a long journey that started in the James Administration.
"I had the pleasure to voting for the first $1 million planning grant for this project may years ago," said Chaneyfield Jenkins, who served on the City Council during the James administration. "It has always been my dream that Newark fulfills it destiny in becomming the global city my parents always dreamed of. Today is a great day for Newark and a great day for the Central Ward."
Schreiber congratulated Dranoff and his team for the innovative new development.
“Is this a great day in Newark?” he said. “As the Arts Center celebrates twenty years and almost 9,000 performances, topping off construction of One Theater Square is a glorious milestone for the bright future of NJPAC and the city of Newark."
From the beginning, NJPAC was intended to be a central element in the economic development of Newark and an active player in creating a vision for the neighborhood.
As part of an agreement with the state, it was mandated that NJPAC develop the land around the center.
Financing for the project depended partially on the state’s Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit initiative, begun under former Governor Jim McGreevy and later reconfigured under former Governor Jon Corzine, to create a program to help fund residential development.
The New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act under Governor Chris Christie was created out of three different programs that ultimately provided $33 million in tax credits for the project.
After NJPAC facilitated the acquisition of $33 million in tax credits from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority under its Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program, the city loaned $11,830,000 to the project, primarily using proceeds of its Airport Rental Car Tax aimed at urban development.
The City and EDA have also issued a $1.5 million Redevelopment Area Bond.
New Jersey Manufacturers and Horizon Blue Cross bought the state’s $33 million in tax credits, with Prudential lending money against the tax credits to enable construction to go forward.
“A new Newark is emerging,” Dranoff said. “This is the building that Newark has been waiting for, and Newark deserves it.”