Newark’s Retail Revolution is Real: Athletics, Wellness Paving the Road to Resurgence

NEWARK, NJ – Newark is making a name for itself, and that may be most evident through the emerging retail scene. The Retail Renaissance & Newark Resurgence: An Update on Innovative Tenants Moving into Brick City and their Collective Experience was a centerpiece panel at CAPRE’s Fifth Annual Newark Commercial Real Estate Summit, and in this CAPRE INSIDER REPORT, we highlight some of the perspective offered by panelists on how Newark’s retail scene has gotten to its present state, as well as what current tenants have to say about it.

Marta Villa, Senior Vice President at JLL offered the first take — on recent history. “Downtown Newark has a very large downtown district, with 185,000 people per day joining the city’s residents, which is already 285,000,” she began. “So we have a tremendous daytime population that’s made up of two predominant consumer groups. One of them is the daytime workforce, which is about 135,000 and then the academic population at the colleges and universities. We have six colleges and universities in downtown Newark. About 55,000 faculty and students come to this city during the week. So we have a tremendous population to choose from.”

Marta Villa, Senior Vice-President, JLL

The core of the retail, historically, has been at Broad and Market, she shared. “This has been New Jersey’s busiest intersection, for many, many years…we’ve done pedestrian counts at that intersection, it’s 37,500 people per day,” Villa explained. “On one corner. That’s where the Urban Eyes is. Historically. the retail has been along Broad and Market, but it’s since crept up toward Military Park with the Haynes Project and the establishment of Whole Foods, which borders not only the park but the CBD office area, and also the universities. Prudential’s tower that was added there three years ago brought 3000 more people to that neighborhood.”

According to Villa, thanks to this dynamic population, the office and retail scene have really changed. “I’d say, starting in probably since the 70s with the Gateway Complex, a lot of retail was focused inward. And since, it’s grew down the street, and we’ve really tried to bring people outside,” she continued. “You’ve probably seen the addition of 20-something new food places – fast casual restaurants. The segments that are strongest here are athletic footwear and apparel, food, and services. I’d like to see more apparel come.”

At that point, Villa handed the microphone to Margaux Stutz, Business Development Manager, for Trek Bicycle, a 40-year operations and one of the most intriguing new tenants in downtown Newark. “Most of our retailers are independent folks, but as we started opening both of our stores, we explored the retail world a little bit more,” Stutz offered, offering a bit of a case study about the day-to-day dynamics in Newark.

“What I’m seeing is that the retailers who are doing well are the ones offering something unique in their space — whether that’s a service that you can’t get online or a level of expertise that you can’t find elsewhere,” she ventured. “In a bicycle shop of course, you can get your bike serviced. They’re simple machines but there’s complexity there. So the stores that have good employees that can help to explain the nuances in the models and help people to find the right fit for a fairly expensive purchase – that’s an added benefit that you can’t get from a website. And we’re seeing that in other industries, with other retailers as well.”

Delvin Burton, Co-Owner, Cyclebar Franchising

Next, Delvin Burton, Co-Owner of CycleBar Franchising, continued on the theme of experiences or services based on athletics or wellness in Newark. “CycleBar is part a franchise and part of the boutique fitness industry, which is an emerging market. Places like Newark are definitely places that people like myself and individual business owners and franchisees are looking to, for a couple of reasons,” he began.

“Now, we really foster communal experiences. So in the focus of a communal experience, not so much the actual work out per se, is the notion that a work out can happen anywhere. I can be a big box gym, and people will come and work out,” shared Burton. “But we try to provide individuals with an experience that will keep them coming back, because we’re able to offer something that they don’t necessarily get at a big box location.”

“So when I start to think about what’s relevant for this audience, if I’m able to create community and experience within the confinement of four walls, how do I also make sure that I’m in a space that allows that to happen beyond my four walls?” Burton asked. “You want synergy from those areas that you are either colocated with or that you reside in, per se. So if I look beyond, do they allow people to be able to converge and commune together, so that they’re able to live off of that synergy, as opposed to, am I the only one in that particular space that does that?”

Finally, Burton brought his attention back to Newark and how it’s bringing that vision to life. “When I think about the Ironside, when I think about the Haynes building, and other open spaces that exist to allow people to come together as a community, it’s something that’s of interest to me as a business owner,” he explained. “Because it fosters a mindset or a mentality that I’m able to capitalize on.”