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Newark's First Luxury High-Rise in a Half-Century Marks City's Attempt at Resurgence

Dranoff Properties' $106 Million Apartment Project Anchors Arts Area, Overlooks New York City
October 4, 2018
One Theater Square, at 23 stories, is the first luxury high-rise built in Newark, New Jersey, in more than 50 years. It is across the street from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and has already leased about 100 of its 245 apartments.Rendering courtesy of Dranoff Properties.


New luxury apartments for rent: High-end amenities like a fitness center with a yoga studio, Manhattan views, granite and stainless steel finishes, a performing arts center with world-class entertainment just across the street, and a local park. Welcome to Newark, New Jersey. Yes, Newark.

The Garden State's largest city now has its first new ground-up luxury residential high-rise in more than 50 years. It's another sign the municipality with an almost 28 percent poverty rate is attempting an economic comeback, an effort that's been more than a decade in the making.

One Theater Square, a $106 million project with 245 apartments over 23 floors, has been in the pipeline for 11 years. It's part of the $4.6 billion in development and 16,000 residential units that are pouring into Newark, including the completion of another luxury high-rise not far from One Theater Square that basketball great and Newark native Shaquille O’Neal is co-developing.

"The fact that 100 people have already moved in is proof positive that Newark has moved in an incredible direction at very, very tremendous speeds that people did not expect," the city’s mayor, Ras Baraka, said at this week's official opening for One Theater Square at its 2 Center St. site.

It remains to be seen whether all of Newark’s new office, retail and multifamily development will thrive following a glut of construction.

Newark, like 19 other municipalities, is also still awaiting word about whether e-commerce giant Amazon will choose it from among 20 finalist sites for its second headquarters, dubbed HQ2. Successfully luring Amazon could boost Newark’s attempts at resurgence.

Before the ceremony, developer Carl Dranoff, chief executive of Philadelphia-based Dranoff Properties, said in an interview that he had faith in Newark almost a dozen years ago, before the revitalization of its downtown. That's when his company was one of 20 firms to respond to a request for proposals issued by New Jersey Performing Arts Center for a multifamily high-rise just across the street.

Credit: Linda Moss for CoStar Group Inc.

Carl Dranoff, chief executive of Dranoff Properties, speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for the high-rise his company developed in the arts district.



Dranoff's company was chosen for the redevelopment of what was then a parking lot, and he heard from a lot of naysayers over the years. But he wasn't worried.

"There were good ingredients in place for Newark," Dranoff said. "It takes a project like this to be the catalyst for other things to happen. We saw a great transportation network. We saw 50,000 people that work downtown every single day and none of them lived downtown. There could be a demand for people to walk to work. We saw some good political leadership. We saw public infrastructure going in, like Military Park."

The high-rise development, which has a 285-car garage and 12,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, received $33 million in Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits from the state and $12 million in project funding from Newark.

Rents top out at $4,450 a month for a three-bedroom unit, but 24 apartments have been set aside as affordable housing, available to people who make as little as $30,000 a year, Baraka said.

John Schreiber, chief executive of the performing arts center, has already rented and moved into an apartment at One Theater Square.

"As we all know, there is so much more like it on the way (for Newark)," Schreiber said of the project.

One Theater Square is a signature piece of a revival initiative for Newark’s downtown that was started more than 30 years ago by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, philanthropist Ray Chambers and officials at the performing arts center, which opened in 1997.

Even so, the U.S. Census Bureau says 27.8 percent of Newark's population was below the poverty level in 2017, the most recent statistics available. That's more than double the U.S. poverty rate of about 13 percent.

Newark was a poster child for America’s troubled cities, with the city breaking out in riots in 1967 and being plagued for decades by crime, poverty and political corruption. In 2008, former Mayor Sharpe James was convicted of federal fraud charges and went to prison in a case prosecuted by then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who later became state governor.

Cory Booker, now a U.S. Senator, became Newark’s mayor in 2006 and ran as a reformer. His efforts to create an economic resurgence in the city got him elected to the U.S. Senate.

But Newark's national reputation as a struggling city persists. Earlier this week President Donald Trump at a press conference before a national audience referenced that image, blasting Booker, who has criticized Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Trump charged that Booker “ran Newark, New Jersey, into the ground: He was a horrible mayor.”

On Thursday Baraka issued a statement defending Booker’s tenure as Newark mayor and invited Trump to visit the city. He referenced Newark's internet technology that helped lead Amazon to make the city a second headquarters site finalist, a status achieved by only 20 of the original 238 regions vying for HQ2.

“Newark is a national leader in developing new ways to create affordable housing, building trust between community and police, enlisting corporations to hire local residents, protecting undocumented immigrants and bringing the arts to every neighborhood,” Baraka said.

“There are construction cranes everywhere, billions of dollars in development is taking place, crime is down, and we have the nation’s fastest fiber internet network,” Baraka continued. “This success is the result of the work of my administration, the collaboration of our stakeholders and residents, the momentum begun by Sen. Cory Booker when he was mayor and his continued effective work to deliver for Newark. If Donald Trump thinks otherwise, he should come to Newark and see the amazing things happening here with his own eyes.”


Linda Moss, Northern New Jersey Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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