NEWARK, NJ — After more than three decades decaying along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the Queen Anne-style doors of the historic Krueger-Scott Mansion will once again open to the community after a make-over quite unlike any restoration project in the country.
Makerhoods — the community development organization tasked with overseeing a revival that has had trouble launching despite millions invested by the city over the years — broke ground on Thursday alongside officials eager to see the site become 66 units of housing and 16 office, retail and manufacturing spaces by December 2021.
Rev. Louise Scott-Rountree, who spent the first 22 years of her life living in the testament to Victorian opulence, was full of emotion as she recounted watching the property slowly fall after her mother died in 1982 and the mansion was acquired by the city via foreclosure.
“I had the blessing of having a mother that came here and struggled with it was not popular, when (having a conversation about a mansion) was not something an African-American could even envision,” Scott-Rountree said. “They told her they could not talk to her because it was out of her reach, and then required her to come up with $50,000 cash to even have a conversation.”
Built by beer baron Gottfried Krueger in 1888, the luxurious 40-room home on Newark’s former millionaire’s row was purchased by Louise Scott, thought to be the first Black female millionaire in New Jersey, in 1958. The former domestic worker built her fortune through a series of beauty products and shops that grew to nine through the city, and she later operated the Scott College of Beauty Culture from the first two floors of the mansion that is listed on the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places.
On a walkthrough of the worksite, Scott-Rountree pointed to a circular dome and recalled watching over her mother’s busy enterprise. Scott also owned and operated a hotel nearby and is remembered by her daughter as a powerful working woman who honored her humble beginnings and returned blessings back to the Newark community.
It was only fitting, according to Makerhoods founder and CEO Avi Teylas, that the redevelopment of Krueger-Scott reflected the site's unique history and the city’s goal to incorporate local community and affordable housing into its new real estate endeavors. His start-up was hired in 2014 to carry out this project, and 21 of the adjacent housing units will be rented at HUD rates in addition to the 16 affordable "Maker" workspaces.
Telyas had to create the “Makerspace” zoning regulations four years ago for the one-of-a-kind development — hearkening back to the cottage system, it’s perhaps the first in the country where people can live, manufacture goods and then sell them to the public via storefront rental space for $1,800 a month. The preliminary entrepreneurs Makerhoods is eyeing so far hint at a future artisan paradise to give Etsy a run for its money, with goods like ceramics, textiles, hot sauces, catering and natural soaps and cosmetics.
“It’s a pre-industrial solution to post-industrial misery,” Telyas joked. “We’re creating a boutique environment to create entrepreneurship.”
The mansion, which will serve as a co-working space, the Newark Center for Entrepreneurship and the Louise Scott Library Community Space, is in the process of a full historical restoration on the main level and renovation on its other floors.
With its offices modeled on the WeWork template, employees of the businesses who choose to rent at Krueger-Scott will have access to a “brewery,” or a café that pays homage to the mansion’s origins, and a courtyard event space and the support of the Makerhoods team, which offers help in areas like marketing, accounting and e-commerce.
Telyas said that the property’s place as a former urban farm also inspired the team to incorporate a greenhouse and commercial and demonstration kitchen.
“We aim to narrow the economic divide as well as the digital divide,” he said. “What brought us to this location is that we are bringing back to life a wonderful and iconic structure that is an integral part of Newark history.”
The project is the only one like it that Makerhoods currently has in its portfolio, but says the blueprint built on a bygone era is generating nationwide interest. In Newark, it’s now taking applications for the 16 coveted workspaces providing an apartment, commercial space and business support.
Mayor Ras Baraka, determined to see the project finally break ground, said that securing a capable developer and hatching a plan befitting of Newark's grandest home has been a test. Now, as Newark’s community-minded restorative development moves forward with gusto, a historical site begging for a magic touch will also breathe new life.
“Most of the time, when things are difficult it means the outcome is going to be great, and we just have to have the staying power,” Baraka said. “This project is going to be incredible and impactful, not simply because of us, but because there is something else involved here, and I believe that it’s going to be successful.”