NEWARK, NJ — Two years after a fire tore through the Field House at Riverbank Park in the Ironbound, Essex County officials and local nonprofits celebrated its reopening to the public as a community engagement and recreation center.
SPARK, a local nonprofit that ran the cultural arts and learning program in the center prior to the fire, and the Ironbound Community Corporation collaborated with Essex County as partners in the building’s $1.2 million reconstruction.
“We are pleased to have partnered with SPARK and the Ironbound Community Corp. to transform the Riverbank Park building into a vibrant community center where residents of all ages gather and children receive academic enrichment, learn about the environment and participate in recreation programs. When the building was damaged by fire, we knew it had to be replaced,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said.
The new center was paid for through insurance and a grant, according to the county. Under the direction of Newark’s OCA Architects, PS Contracting, Inc. and the Essex County Department of Public Works, construction was completed within six months.
OCA Architects preserved the history of the Field House through the recreation of some of its original features, such as parts of the building’s exterior brick walls.
“It’s great to get this building back. People are emotionally attached to Riverbank Park and our hearts were broken when the fire occurred. This is a wonderful thing and it makes my heart beat again,” said Nancy Zak of SPARK and the Ironbound Community Corp. She added that SPARK led the original effort to preserve Riverside Park back in 1996.
Since 2003, the county has made a series of improvements to the park, such as remediating contaminated soil from the park, installing a synthetic surface soccer field and scoreboard and renovating its sports facilities.
North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, standing in for East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, remarked on the delivery of the project under the county’s leadership.
“I want to thank the County Executive for making this happen. The fact that this was done during a pandemic is a testament to Joe’s leadership and the great benefits being brought to our residents,” Ramos said.
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