NEWARK, NJ - One thing that could make Newark more attractive to prospective tenants? Beefing up mass transit, according to some big names involved in the city’ development.
A panel of developers was asked about the future of the city during the Newark Regional Business Partnership’s real estate market forecast on Thursday. While their outlook was bright -- pointing to a robust labor market in technology, a decrease in crime and the national spotlight that Amazon’s HQ2 search brought -- transportation was one of the key challenges.
Several of the panelists are working on developments in the downtown whose tenants would rely heavily on mass transit. Onyx Equities co-founder John Saraceno, whose investment company is involved in a joint venture to purchase three Gateway Center buildings, chastised the condition of Newark Penn Station.
“That cannot be the entry into this city,” Saraceno said of Penn Station. “The city deserves better and it's time to be responsible and it's time to fix it and it's time to address it and make it a place that's welcoming.”
The transit hub is a big deal for Saraceno, especially since his new investment in the Gateway complex would reinvent the skyway that links the office buildings to Newark Penn Station.
SJP Properties Vice President Peter Bronsnick, whose company developed the second Prudential office tower, agreed that Penn Station should be the first priority. He also pointed he also said that there should be more emphasis on the Broad Street station to transport more millennials and executives who may live in the suburbs.
But the buses, light rail and PATH were just as equally important to developers as well.
“The light rail will become immensely important as your density increase and you're going to be seeing the utilization go up dramatically as more apartments come up online,” Brosnick said.
Tim Lizura, senior vice president for real estate and capital projects of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center said, he’d like to see a PATH extension go to Newark Liberty International Airport and a connection in the South Ward. The Port Authority has proposed extending the World Trade Center PATH line to Newark's South Ward.
Lizura also wanted to see more investment from NJ Transit into the light rail.
"If we're going to do light rail we have to do make it run more than every 15, 20 minutes,” he said. “It doesn't necessarily make a whole lot of sense when you can walk the whole distance in 20 minutes."
Paramount Assets Senior Vice President Richard Dunn agreed on renovating Penn Station as well as upping the ante on the light rail. His company has turned several historic buildings in Newark into mixed-use residential developments in the downtown, including William Flats.
“It's all about marketing,” Dunn said. “We need to have the transit infrastructure to get to residents to point C's to Manhattan, Jersey City, etc. etc. And I think Newark has some flaws at this point.”
He later added: "I think a world class train station would go a long way in attracting new business and attracting new residents.”
Saraceno, of Onyx Equities, had sharp words for NJ Transit and the state’s investment in Newark:
“It's time to stop screwing around. It's time to address the fact that we have these great transportation hubs and we have these great concepts...and infrastructure is not only just a federal issue, it's a state issue. So let's fix it, and when we do, I think you continue seeing migration [of] the people.”