NRBP’s Barbara Kauffman: Newark is On Its Way to Being National Model for an Equitable City

NEWARK, NJ — As Executive Vice President and COO of the Newark Regional Business Partnership, Barbara Kauffman plays a leadership role in branding the organization and fulfilling its role as “business concierge” for NRBP members and professionals. Barbara is adept at assisting members on an individual basis by providing access to resources that help businesses succeed. She employs creative strategies to combine the efforts of other non-profit, government and business organizations with those of NRBP. She collaborates with NRBP’s President and CEO in setting the yearly program agenda and co-directs NRBP’s involvement in Newark’s revitalization. Barbara kicked off CAPRE’s Fifth Annual Newark CRE Summit yesterday as a moderator for the session “One-on-One with Aisha Glover & Barbara Kauffman.” Below, we caught up with her for a post-event run-down, highlighting the main themes of the session as well as the latest dynamics in Newark.

CAPRE: Thanks for chatting with us today, Barbara. We are pleased that you and Aisha Glover  kicked off the day at CAPRE’s Fifth Annual Newark CRE Summit. Please share with our readers why this 1-1 interview with Aisha was the perfect way to start the day.

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

Kauffman:  We were able to share some things that weren’t as easily conveyed later in the day. The most important principles we can share with a real estate audience is that Newark is becoming an inclusive city with equitable economic development.

CAPRE: What do you mean by that?

Kauffman: Newark is a city where there are opportunities for all residents – no one is getting left behind. It is not that new people are coming in and taking over from long-time residents. The universities, the large employers, the anchor institutions are working hand in hand to be able to proactively make opportunities and create jobs. Some of the things we talked about early in this session were Hire-Buy-Live and Newark 2020. Newark 2020 is an effort to hire 2,020 more Newarkers by 2020.

CAPRE: That’s an admirable goal. How’s it going?

Kauffman:  We are currently at 18%, which is still far below where we hope to be in the coming years. This fits into the strategy for attracting new development – that is, bringing new development in, in combination with growth from within Newark, and looking for the opportunities for Newarkers to grow their businesses, to be part of that.

CAPRE: Tell us more about that strategy.

Kauffman: The goal is not just to bring in new companies, but to be more  intentional. What are the hiring practices? What indirect jobs are coming? What are the salary expectations? What are the internal policies and practices? These are all things the City will ask.

CAPRE: What other programs or initiatives is Newark exploring at this moment?

Kauffman: One is an equitable growth commission, which would ensure that the benefits of new development extend to all residents and over all neighborhoods, not just downtown. Other techniques such as inclusionary zoning and affordable housing are also being employed.

CAPRE: What other strengths does Newark take pride in, in terms of attracting new businesses and residents?

Kauffman: Technology is obviously very important here.  Newark is an attractive location for tech companies because of the high-speed fiber that is available here. Some of the buildings are already totally equipped and that allows them to be able to market to companies that require the very highest bandwidth – substantially higher. The aspect that is most important, though, is that Newark is an inclusive city. And we have proactive strategies, by all parties coming together – public, private, anchor institutions, non-profits – to ensure that the Newarkers who are here will benefit alongside anyone who is new to the community. Given Aisha’s background, I think she is  ne of the most important persons in the city to hear from about that.

CAPRE: What new projects are setting the pace in Newark?

Kauffman: The revitalization of the Gateway Complex by Onyx Equities and their partners will transform a 50+ year old complex, and that is very exciting. Mulberry Commons Park is also a superb space – there are things for children, visitors, beautiful fountains, that eventually in the latter phases will include a bridge over the train tracks, so that the Prudential Center and downtown will directly connect with the Ironbound.

Of course, the succession of renovation projects to bring in housing opportunities has worked out very, very well. The Hahnes Building was very successful and has been leasing very well. The old Verizon building is coming online and is leasing, and the two projects at the Broad Street station end of town, which includes Riverfront Square by Lotus Equity Group, and the Westinghouse site, neither has started yet, but they are getting closer to getting ready to go. One of the most exciting things that has happened is a conversion of a former church by Audible – the interior of that space is spectacular. What the company did with that building, by incorporating the history and the old structure, with the modern, and what they needed to have a first-class, high-tech space, is just remarkable. It’s extremely well done.

CAPRE: What Newark trend is most exciting with an eye to the future?

Kauffman: The number of people living downtown is increasing. A speaker at NRBP’s Real Estate Market Forecast, held every March, said you can tell there has been a change because he sees people walking dogs in the morning. Aisha noted that there is still a long way to go, there are vacant storefronts and the mix of uses is not yet where an urban center should be, but progress has been strong. In closing, Newark is well on its way to being a national model for as an equitable city!

CAPRE: That’s exciting. Thanks for your time, Barbara.

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