Newark CRE Summit Preview with Barbara Kauffman, NRBP: Conversion of Newark Office Buildings, HQ2 Bid Sparking Newark’s Fire

NEWARK, NY — Barbara E. Kauffman is Executive Vice President and COO of Newark Regional Business Partnership (NRBP), an organization that is connecting business for a Greater Newark. In anticipation of CapRE’s Newark CRE Summit July 19, we connected with Barbara to learn more about her perspective and latest activity in Newark.

CapRE: Thanks for chatting with us, Barbara. Let’s dive right in. What is the most exciting activity in Newark?

Barbara Kauffman, Executive Vice President and COO, Newark Regional Business Partnership (NRBP),

Kauffman: The trend for conversion of older office buildings to residential is one of the hottest topics of what’s happening in downtown Newark. What will be the telling factor will be the pace of leasing and how quickly those residences fill once they are complete.  A lot of product is coming online and if the Hahne and Company bldg. is any indication, there is pent up demand for people to live in downtown Newark. One of the advantageous parts of residential development in downtown is, as Mayor Baraka often comments, does not displace residents because there was not a residential population in downtown Newark. It means more activity, much more of a 24/7 presence, and the ability for retailers and restaurants to be successful. It breeds a whole series of positive things.

CapRE: That’s a great point. What else are you excited about?

Kauffman: Another thing is the announcement of M&M Mars coming to Ironside Newark. Also, the announcement that the Westinghouse property will finally be redeveloped and one of the developers on that project will be on the panel that I am moderating at 11:00 AM at the Newark Summit — Newark Office Leasing & Drivers for New Product: Exploring Trends in Occupancy and Unique Demands of Modern Tenants.

CapRE: Ah, that’s great to hear. We know there’s more going on — anything else you’d like to mention?

Kauffman: The progress that Lotus Equity Group is making with the Bears stadium, for sure. All of those projects are either new construction or new companies coming to Newark. The fact that the companies and the developers are taking advantage of the dark fiber and the high-speed connectivity that results from the fiber network that exists in Newark is something we long said was a selling point, but it is catching on now. You’ll see that emerging as Ironside Newark moves forward – also a topic for our 11 am panel – as well as the other projects I’ve mentioned. The growing presences of technology companies relying on high speed connectivity here is a real positive for the city. As is the co-working space Launch Pad – also represented on the panel. They’ve filled their co-working space with some tech entrepreneurs and that’s a really exciting change to see happening.

CapRE: What about beyond downtown?

Kauffman: Though a lot of the development is downtown, development is also moving to other wards. One of our member firms opened a satellite office on Frelinghuysen Avenue, near the airport. One of their strengths is environmental hazard remediation, so this location is ideal for them.

CapRE: And what obstacles does Newark face as it enters this exciting era of development?

Kauffman: I think that we’ve turned the tide in terms of perception, but nonetheless it’s something that we need to continue to be mindful of. It’s very, very important for all of us to continue to talk about the positives of a Newark location. So we can continue to move beyond the perception that had existed for so many years of this being a space where people didn’t want to come. That is an ongoing challenge.

Then, transportation is and will be a big issue here. Management of traffic especially. We sit on one of the great mass transit hubs in the country and we need to make the most of that to get people in and out of our city. The same goes for managing parking and making sure we have enough spaces for demand. We must also make sure that some of the transportation projects in the pipeline – most important being the Gateway tunnel to NYC – move forward.

CapRE: How have things changed in Newark since last year’s CRE Summit? What’s changed in the last year?

Kauffman: I think that the tide has really turned for the city’s emergence as a city that people want to be in. Just the fact that we were selected for one of the 20 finalists for Amazon’s HQ2 was winning. The different between last year and this year is that as of September, we were on that list. It was a game-changer. Whether or not we’re selected, we’ve risen in visibility and impression, because any company considering a location is going to take a second or third look at us because Amazon said we were good enough to be in the top 20.

 CapRE: Indeed. Thanks for your time, Barbara. We’ll see you July 19 in Newark.