Newark Case Study: Riverfront Square No Longer Just for the Bears

NEWARK, NJ — Riverfront Square will transform one of downtown Newark’s most important sites, the former Newark Bears Stadium, into a thriving 24/7 community. The 11.8-acre site sits adjacent to the waterfront, steps from NJ Transit’s Broad Street station – accessible to Midtown Manhattan in 18 minutes – and complements the future Riverfront Park designed by the internationally acclaimed James Corner Field Operations. Riverfront Square is Newark’s most ambitious mixed-use project and is expected to provide up to 2,000 residential units, large and small-scale retail, cultural and public open space, a hotel, 2 million square feet of office space, and parking spaces in the heart of downtown.

At CapRE’s Newark Commercial Real Estate Summit in August, we showcased this project, with remarks from various stakeholders about the potential that this re-development holds for Newark. First, Moderator Frank E. Ferruggia, Partner, McCarter & English, LLP offered a bit of a primer. “Today we’re going to talk about where Newark was and how it will get to where it is going,” he began.

Continued Ferruggia, “So let’s rewind to 1986. Sharp James becomes the mayor of Newark and he makes the determination that the only way to develop Newark is to have architecturally significant and iconically located buildings. So he triangulates Newark with the Prudential Arena, the New Jersey Performing Arts center, and Bears Stadium. Now, two of those projects work and the third didn’t – which was Bears Stadium.”

“But Ben Korman, Chairman and CEO, of Lotus Equity Group LLC, has stepped forward to put in a new and architecturally significant, identifiable development,” shared Ferruggia, fast-forwarding to the present day. “And you’re going to be hearing from the others here that how they believe that if you build something of significance, development will occur. So I now introduce you to the great architect, Dave Minno.”

With that, Ferruggia handed off the microphone to David Minno, President of Minno & Wasko Architects and Planners. “Thank you Frank. Good morning. We have a tremendous panel here today of developers, and we’re going to talk about the case studies of three very significant projects that are going to start construction by the end of 2018 or in the beginning of 2019,” laid out Minno. “Newark, we believe, has a great strength. It’s built in the character of the community. It has an incredible transportation network. And it has the dark fiber that exists under the streets. And now, even more importantly, there is an administration here in Newark that is welcoming development.”

Minno then offered some insider New Jersey analysis. “For years at Minno & Wasko, we’ve been doing a tremendous amount of work in areas like Jersey City, Weehawken, and other towns, and we’re getting messages now that those town are shutting down a little bit in terms of build,” Minno intimated. “Just like the suburbs, you’re hearing “not in my backyard” and you see some slowdowns in the development pace that’s taken place on the Gold Coast. Newark is a natural next frontier. we’ve seen it in Harrison, just on he other side of the Passaic river, where we’ve seen great strides. You’re now seeing Newark be a primary focus of development.”

Dave Minno, President, Minno & Wasko Architects

According to Minno, this will comes to fruition whether or not Amazon’s storied HQ2 comes to Newark or not. “It’s going to happen,” he stressed. “So these three projects, I want to start with Ben Korman, Chairman and CEO, of Lotus Equity Group LLC and his project, at the site of the old Bears Stadium, which is located on the North end of downtown, directly across from the Broad Street station. This site, in terms of the design, has three other principal architects besides Minnow & Wasko.”

“The riverfront location is particularly well connected not only to the city of Newark but also to New York City,” observed Minno. “A lot of people have seen the development that occurred in Hudson Yards and people thought that the office space in Hudson Yards was going to be occupied by people living in Brooklyn. Well it takes almost an hour and a half by public transportation for some people who live in Brooklyn to get to Hudson Yards. Little known fact – you can get from the Broad St station to Penn Station in New York City in seventeen minutes. And then it’s a few minutes walk to Hudson yards. So when that news gets out to people looking for housing and affordable locations, it’s going to be a significant issue.”

“It’s also a very large site – almost nine acres. It includes not only the Bears Stadium but the current Essex County Garage site that’s there,” he outlined, preparing to hand off the microphone to a third speaker. “And then across division street to the north, adjacent to the train tracks and 280, is another parcel of land that is located on Division St. and that has become our parcel for office development and parking development for the entire project. It’s a location near universities and it has a connection in particular to the new Riverfront Park along the Passaic River, the existing Military Park, and Triangle Park within the city of Newark.”

Continue the New Jersey conversation. Check out our Upcoming Events. For more from the panel, “Architecture & Design Case Studies: Bears Stadium, 55 Union Street, Ironbound, The Halo & More” stay tuned to future CapRE Insider Reports.