After years of standing empty and abandoned, the original site of Saint Michael’s Medical Center is finally getting a new lease on life.
The 90,000 square-foot structure, located on Central Avenue in Newark’s Central ward, is to be turned into a mixed-use building, with plans to include six floors of shared-housing residences, along with two floors of commercial space.
The property was acquired in January 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.
The project, which will include 92 fully-furnished shared-housing apartments, along with commercial space dedicated to art-focused nonprofit organizations, will be the first of its kind in the city.
Partners in the project have redeveloped both commercial and residential buildings throughout the city.
CAPC, a nonprofit organization that acquires vacant and abandoned properties, has partnered with local community builders to restore abandoned buildings throughout the area, and is responsible for rehabbing hundreds of Newark properties.
In addition, Crawford Street Partners has developed a number of properties throughout Newark, including the Newark Educator’s Community Charter School, while the Hanini Group has redeveloped several of Newark's landmark buildings, such as downtown's Hahne mixed-use building, along with First National Bank, a Beaux-Arts structure that was turned into Newark’s first boutique hotel, Hotel Indigo.
Commercial spaces will occupy the first two floors of the building, with the residence portion occupying the remaining six floors.
Restoration of the structure is a welcome development to the neighborhood after several years of turbulent times for the once-beleaguered hospital.
In May 2016, Prime Healthcare completed the $62 million acquisition of the 358-bed facility after a bankruptcy judge approved the sale. Trinity Health, the previous owners of the hospital, filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
With threats of a shutdown, city officials, religious leaders and residents rallied together and signed petitions to save the hospital and and its 1,400 jobs.
At the time of the purchase, Prime promised to spend $50 million on capital improvements and to maintain the facility as a hospital for a minimum of five years.
The hospital, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding this year, has already invested more than $20 million to upgrade the facility, including a new systems for electronic health care records, new monitoring devices and the latest cancer treatment equipment.
Prime Healthcare did not purchase the older portion of the hospital complex and the group of developers worked out the sale directly with the creditors committee as part of the bankruptcy proceedings, Crum said.
Development of the building will bring in new market tax credits programmed to revitalize distressed communities, Crum said. In addition, the partners have registered to have the property declared an historic site in order to obtain historic tax credits.
“It’s a great building,” Crum said. “We’re seeking to preserve it.”
Since acquiring the building, some demolition has been done, as well as a necessary subdivision in November.
“There was some significant disrepair,” Crum said. “Right now, we’re doing building stabilization work, roof and structural repair and removal of asbestos. We’ll get started in earnest in 2018.”
The project should be completed sometime next year, Crum said.
Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, who fought to save the hospital, lauded the project.
"I am excited this project is off and running," she said. "This structure was the original home to Saint Michael's Medical Center. In recent years it has remained empty. The creative reconfiguration of this historical building into a mixed use structure for non profit offices, incubator space for small business and residences is a welcome addition to the Saint Michael's-Central Avenue-Dr. King Boulevard corridor."
Crum said the partners want to use the commercial space for improving the community.
“We want to ensure that the space is used for good community projects,” Crum said.
Grassroots and nonprofit organizations, such as GlassRoots--an art studio serving underprivileged youth--along with the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Studio, have plans to move into the building. In addition, space will be available for local artists to sublet as studio space.
“We will give them that flexible creative space that they need,” Crum said.
Newark Arts, an organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Newark, said that they have been invited to move into the building and are seriously considering it.
“We love that GlassRoots will be there, as well as other artist and dance studios, and additional cultural entities,” Johnson said. “In general, Newark is long past due for a multi-tenant nonprofit and cultural hubs.
Johnson pointed out that the recently-opened Express Newark in the Hahne & Co building was the first successful multi-tenant destination.
"Newark could use more," Johnson said. "There is much to be gained when nonprofits and cultural organizations share space, knowledge, and energy.”
As for the shared-housing model, Crum said it’s the latest trend in living and well-suited for the direction in which the area is headed.
“These apartments are perfect for young professionals who need to be more mobile,” Crum said. “Newark doesn’t have anything like this. They are fully furnished, so you bring your clothes and you’re done.”
Apartments will be designed for one to five occupants, with leases offered for periods of six months and up. Shared common and social spaces, along with laundry facilities, will be provided for all tenants.
Chaneyfield Jenkins said the new development will provide a welcome economic boost to the area.
"This sort of development is exactly why we fought so hard to save Saint Michael's," she said. "Community stakeholders understood how important this area is to the Central Ward and Newark. This development absolutely compliments the more than $50 million capital investment Saint Michael's will make in the coming years."
Crum noted the building’s prime location and its close proximity to downtown and public transportation.
“It’s a long block from downtown and near the Broad Street station,” Crum said. “I think this will expand the downtown core.”
Home to downtown Newark, the Central Ward has experienced a resurgence in commercial and residential development in recent years, and is home to major corporations, five university campuses and a busy public transit system.