NEWARK, NJ - Newark Public Schools is holding a public hearing to consider a lease on a new location for its headquarters, but one of the city's largest landlords is raising questions about the proposed deal.
The hearing on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 5:30 in the 10th Floor Conference Room at 2 Cedar Street will consider a $42.5 million, 16-year lease for 100,000 square feet of space at 765 Broad Street. NPS's current lease at 2 Cedar Street, which is owned by Hartz Mountain Industries, ends on July 31.
"The 765 Broad Street Lease is projected to substantially reduce the District's current expenses for central office operations," NPS said in a legal notice published Jan. 26. "No new/additional funding is required above the current level."
However, one of the city's largest landlords said the state-run district can reduce its expenses by more than $6 million by leasing one of its buildings on 33 Washington Street.
In a letter obtained by TAPintoNewark, Brendan Berger of the Berger Organization, wrote that it appeared NPS made its decision to locate to 765 Broad Street before even receiving a proposal from his company for 33 Washington.
"It seems as though the decision had already been made to proceed with the other landlord (no matter our response), which is odd given the enormous financial pressure the district is operating under," Berger wrote.
Berger wrote that NPS would be able to lease 33 Washington for $38.6 million for 100,000 square feet of space, including 150 parking spaces. Bergen then sweetened the deal to $18 per square foot, or $36.3 million over the 16 years, a savings to the district of more than $6.2 million.
"Given the aggressive nature of our proposal, especially with respect to the provision of 150 free parking spaces directly adjacent to the building (plus 100 additional spaces at market), the comparison of total lease costs including the benefit of free parking should clearly demonstrate that our proposal is significantly less expensive and therefore in the best interests of NPS than that of our competitor," Berger wrote.
Among those who have signed up to speak at the hearing is Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, who said she plans to raise questions about the proposed lease.
"Is this a sweetheart deal for a landlord because it certainly isn't for the taxpayers," Chaneyfield Jenkins said. "We should be spending that kind of money building schools for our children, not leasing space for district staff. This is yet another example of misplaced priorities."
Chaneyfield Jenkins said NPS has numerous school buildings around that city that are no longer in use and can be converted into office space for district staff.
"For $42 million, the district could convert a school, or construct its own building and probably have enough left over so that it wouldn't have to lay off staff," Chaneyfield Jenkins said.
Berger recently purchased the 450,000 square-foot 18-story building from LNR Property, a subsidiary of Starwood Property Trust, for $16.4 million, or $37 per square foot. The building was completed in 1970 and previously housed Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Audible and DHL, Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP are among the tenants of the building.
The Berger Organization, which has owned property in Newark for more than four decades, is among the largest commercial landlords in the city, with some 2 million square feet of space.
The building at 765 Broad Street, constructed in 1957 by Prudential, was purchased in May 2013 by the Berger Organization, but sold last year. The deed is listed to 765 Broad Street C LLC with an address at 620 Foster Ave in Brooklyn.