NEWARK, NJ — Since beer titan Pabst Blue Ribbon left Newark in 1986, the land where the factory once stood, with the famous 60-foot-tall Pabst beer bottle, transformed into an abandoned illegal dumping site.

Now, the four-acre site on South Orange Avenue in the West Ward is ready to trade its life as a blight on the community for one as an expansive mixed-use development location. The city hosted a town hall on Wednesday night to present the official plans and answer questions from residents. 

“This particular site has been abandoned probably for my entire childhood. I grew up watching it not only abandoned but overrun with illegal dumping, debris, garbage and weeds,” said Mayor Ras Baraka. “Even at its present state, it looks 100% better than it did two years ago, never mind 20 years ago.”

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The property is currently remediated and approved for the development project, which will include collaboration from Irvington. Each municipality has about one half of the site in its jurisdiction. 

Newark’s Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the plans presented by property owners Crown Real Estate Holdings earlier this month. Developers will build 660 residential units and ground-floor retail space, 665 below-ground parking spaces, a daycare center, two gyms, a library-like space with common work area and conference rooms, study offices, a basketball court, community rooms and other amenities. 

Elnardo Webster, legal counsel for the development team, said while the amenities will only be available to onsite residents, commercial space would be open to the community at large. About 20% of the units will be kept at HUD rates under Newark’s Inclusionary Zoning for Affordable Housing ordinance. 

Talks are also being held to develop the abandoned property adjacent to the site into a park for community use, Webster said. 

On the Newark side, which will have about 330 of the overall units, that means 15 units will be under $1,000, 15 will be in the $1,200 range and the remaining affordable units will come in at $1,600. Developers are also identifying 13 units that can be made into duplexes to expand homeownership in both municipalities. 

Webster said his team is hoping to lease space to businesses that are part of the community and is actively working with Baraka and Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss to pinpoint vendors. 

“One of the things that we’ve talked about in the past is figuring out a way to subsidize some of their rents. There are financial things that are barriers to entry for small business people, so all those things we try to make work,” Webster said. “We want this community to be something that is sustainable.” 

The project, which is slated to break ground sometime in 2021, will take an estimated five to six years to complete due to its size. Webster said COVID-19 also complicates certain components like government subsidies and labor. 

“A lot of things still have to be worked out, but they will be worked out transparently and honestly,” said West Ward Councilmember Joseph McCallum. 

Residents are urged to contact Andrea Mason at newarkpeoplesassembly@ci.newark.nj.us with any additional questions about the development of the old Pabst Blue Ribbon site.