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November 17, 2002
Newark Puts Its Fiery Riot Behind It
By BRENT STAPLES
The riots that burned through this country in the late 1960's ravaged more than 125 cities and reached into 28 states. Most Americans would find it difficult to name even a dozen of those cities. But the conflagration that ripped through Newark in 1967 remains especially fresh in public memory, perhaps because most people had never heard of the city until they watched it burning on the evening news. Try as it might to escape, Newark has lived in the shadow of its riot for 35 years.
The riots sent businesses and middle-class families streaming into the suburbs. But one of the lesser known legacies of all that fiery violence is what urbanologists call "the architecture of fear" which includes gated communities and those ubiquitous fortress-style office towers that project windowless stone walls to the sidewalk where stores and shops should be. The architecture of fear has killed the possibility of street life in downtown Los Angeles and hurt the revitalization of Detroit as well. Visit Newark at rush hour on a weekday evening and you will see the same symptoms on display. The train station at rush hour is bustling with commuters sipping coffee and reading, many waiting to be picked up and whisked off to the suburbs. But a short walk from the station, into the heart of the city, you encounter the eerily vacant thoroughfare of Raymond Boulevard, lined with buildings that feature blank facades instead of stores or coffee shops. The Hilton Gateway Hotel has a drab cement-colored face that looks like some kind of bunker at the street level.
Covered elevated walkways allow workers to move from the train station to any one of several office towers without ever touching the street. There is little to see anyway, since the designers omitted shops and retail spaces that would have attracted people. At 6 in the evening, I walked several blocks into this city of 274,000 people and encountered fewer than a half-dozen pedestrians.
Planners and community groups in Newark have become vividly aware of this problem. The architecture of fear downtown seems to have met its match, in the approachable, human-scale architecture of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. This graceful, low-rise, red brick structure, awash in light, is a visual oasis in Newark and more engaging by far than its unglamorous acronym, NJPAC, suggests. The building has become a magnet for foot traffic in a previously vacant corner of downtown.
The first time I visited the area around the center at night, I passed through empty streets and suddenly encountered throngs of people filing in to see the British pop star Elvis Costello. "If someone had told you 10 years ago that there would be 3,000 people in downtown Newark at night, you would have called them crazy," said Lawrence Goldman, NJPAC's president and chief executive.
The main performance hall, done in warm woods and copper trim, has the intimate feel of a nicely appointed living room. The foyers and lobbies have a similarly warm, even homey feel. The building is popular with foundations and businesses staging parties and retreats. During the summer, the front plaza becomes the stage for weekly free outdoor concerts that attract as many as 2,500 people a night. Once stark and fearsomely vacant, the area is now a thriving singles scene. Restaurants and parking lots have sprouted nearby.
Mr. Goldman was seen as crazy when he first argued that the city should build a world-class cultural institution in its desolate downtown. One set of skeptics told him that white suburbanites who had been scared away by the riots would never come back at night. Another set of skeptics predicted that white suburbanites would come but that black people would stay away in droves.
The doubters have proved to be spectacularly wrong. Celebrating its fifth birthday this fall, NJPAC has become what surveys describe as one of the most well-attended performing arts centers of its kind in the country, outstripping its peers by a significant margin. One in four tickets is bought by minority patrons a proportion that puts performing arts centers in most other cities to shame.
With its intimate feel, the center has little in common with stolid, formal institutions like the Kennedy Center in Washington or Lincoln Center in New York. Mr. Goldman's architects were pushed to create what he describes as a "welcoming building" that "makes people feel hugged when they come in" and makes them want to linger.
Mr. Goldman is campaigning to ensure that other parts of downtown Newark are rebuilt with the same goal in mind. His influence is apparent in the new 12-story F.B.I. building that is going up just a stone's throw from NJPAC. What could easily have been a cold, stone obelisk has turned out to be an illuminated, window-filled building that will have restaurants and retail space. Though not perfect, the building harmonizes with the waterfront in a way that a traditional fortress structure would not.
In the old days, Newark would have been pleased to have any building it could get, fortress or not. But the tempering of the look of the F.B.I. building reflects a new awareness that good architecture will help the city's renaissance and that bad architecture can hurt it. When the history of the Newark comeback is written, it will likely begin at the start of the 21st century, when NJPAC solidified its position as the living, breathing town square that had been missing in downtown Newark for 40 years.
Copyright The New York Times Company
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While Newark won't be a 24 hour city anytime in the forseeable future, if indeed the Nets and Devils arena makes it to downtown Newark, it should reenforce what this article is saying...
I have actually seen a show at NJPAC - it is a spectacular performance venue.
November 30, 2003
COMMERCIAL PROPERTY | NEWARK
Developers Plan to Repopulate the Downtown Area
By JOHN HOLUSHA
The Hahne & Company department store and the Griffith Building behind it are to hold 223 apartments.
FOR more than 17 years, the old Hahne & Company department store has sat vacant on two blocks of prime real estate on Broad Street in downtown Newark, defying multiple attempts to convert it to another use. But lately, a new owner, the Cogswell Realty Group, has cleaned up the exterior and installed new windows, planning to convert it and the adjacent Griffith Building into 223 rental apartment units.
Other developers also plan residential projects in the downtown area, including converting office buildings, building new mixed-use towers along the Passaic River shoreline and adding residential structures at the city's colleges and a new "urban village" of midrise and high-rise housing in an area that might or might not become the home of a new sports stadium.
In all, these projects could add more than 6,000 housing units in Newark's downtown, giving it the first sizable resident population in generations, said Arthur R. Stern, the president of Cogswell, which is based in New York.
The hope is that if people live in the city, rather than fleeing to the suburbs after work or school, it will encourage the development of restaurants and other retail services that are largely lacking now.
"Newark has been a ghost town after 5 p.m.," said Sharpe James, the city's mayor. "To have a viable city, you need to have a viable downtown and we are trying to make downtown into a neighborhood." He said that while corporations had moved offices into downtown or expanded their presence in recent years, there had been no parallel growth in a full-time residents.
A big part of the reason, Mr. Stern said, is that there was no housing suitable for the people working in the area. "There is zero supply," he said. He said Cogswell was planning to spend $180 million to convert the Hahne-Griffith complex and a nearby office building at 1180 Raymond Boulevard to residences.
Demand for housing is coming not just from office workers. Educational officials say students at what were largely commuter colleges in the city are increasingly demanding to live on campus and in the process producing a more livable city.
"With our housing and the projects on Broad Street, we could convert this into a 24-hour-a-day community," said Steven J. Diner, provost and chief operating officer of Rutgers University's Newark campus. He said it could be argued that Newark, although its roots were industrial, is now the most college-oriented town in the nation, with more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students in a city of 275,000.
IN addition to Rutgers-Newark, the cluster of educational institutions in what is known as the University Heights part of the city includes the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Essex County College. State plans to merge Rutgers University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the University of Medicine and Dentistry would produce a university offering a full range of undergraduate and graduate studies.
Rutgers-Newark is planning a new undergraduate dormitory that would house 600 students construction is expected to begin this summer and it is considering apartmentlike graduate housing that would fill a full block.
"We want retail all around on the first floor," Dr. Diner said of the graduate housing. "There is no reason why we could not have a Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstore there with a coffee bar."
For nonstudents, the new developments could offer housing prices and rentals at less than half the cost in Manhattan and less than in parts of Jersey City and Hoboken.
And with the restoration of the PATH line to Lower Manhattan, Newark residents would be a station stop or two away from locations on the Hudson River. The main northeast line of Amtrak also runs through Newark and is about a 15-minute ride into Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan.
"Newark has a wonderful transportation infrastructure left over from the 19th and early 20th centuries," Dr. Diner said. "And we have the Art Deco buildings that were not torn down and replaced because of Newark's condition."
Newark's condition is a polite way of describing a city whose industrial base dwindled or moved away, whose population declined from more than 400,000 in the 1960's to its current level and that was battered by bloody riots in 1967. Indeed, some of the educational institutions drawing all those students today were expanded or moved into the city after 1967 to provide an economic base.
This is a good strategy for economic development in a postindustrial era, said Peter Smirniotopoulos, an urban planner and faculty member at Johns Hopkins University.
"In a knowledge-based economy, colleges and universities will be the factories of the 21st century," he wrote in the November issue of Urban Land magazine. Rather than stay confined to their own campuses, he said, "colleges and universities should be better integrated into the cities and towns where they are located."
RUTGERS-NEWARK is a few blocks north of Broad Street but is separated from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and a growing arts area to the south by a dead zone two blocks deep and six blocks wide that includes the Hahne and Griffith Buildings, a surface parking lot and old retail buildings that will probably be demolished.
If they are successfully turned into residences, it would join the two areas into a community, real estate officials said.
The fact that people were willing to go to work in the rehabilitated office buildings on Broad Street in the city's core suggested there was a pent-up demand for housing, said Larry Regan of Regan Development. His company is converting an office building that was completed in 1906 at 9 Clinton Street, just south of Broad Street, into 63 one- and two-bedroom apartment units that will rent for $1,000 to $1,600 a month.
"There has been no new housing or rehabilitation in 15 to 20 years, and we are convinced that there are a lot of people who want to live near where their jobs are," Mr. Regan said.
"The cultural amenities of the city could produce a live-work neighborhood, and that could lead to more restaurants and retail amenities on the commercial side."
Matrix Development, which had largely been an industrial developer in the state's midsection, is planning a mixed-use development, including 400 to 500 housing units, stores, a hotel and possibly an office building along the Passaic River.
Richard F. X. Johnson, the company's senior vice president for development, said the residential and retailing components would be built first, with the units becoming available in the fall of 2005.
He said communities upstream were working to clean up the contaminated Passaic River, which was the area's main transportation link before the 19th century. A riverfront park is being built north of the Matrix development and water events like rowing competitions are planned in the area.
Mr. Johnson said the developers of the individual projects were working together to create an attractive community that would benefit them all.
"It is not enough for us to be successful," he said. "Arthur has to be successful and the others as well if this is going to work."
Not everything is rosy, of course. For one thing, the public schools are widely seen as struggling to provide an adequate education for the city's children. That situation will probably have a lot to do with the types of people who might be interested in living downtown, said James W. Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers.
"The market will be for people in the pre- and post-children phases," he said. "The maturing baby boomers are 57 this year and that means lots of empty nesters. And the echo boomers are 20-somethings interested in an urban lifestyle."
In addition, he said, the efforts to prevent the sprawl of housing over the countryside in the state are beginning to work, redirecting development back into cities. "There is a basic shift on housing," he said. "This may be part of that."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
Living in the former store looks like it could be awesome. Gigantic windows.
Phase I of the Newark light rail is now under construction. Phase I is the tunnel segment that connects the Newark City Subway to street level near the NJ Performing Arts Center.
Wonderful news! Is there a site detailing the entire proposed system?
All I've found so far is this transit map of the metro area:
It's a biiiiig file, but it includes the subway, MetroNorth, LIRR, Amtrak, NJ Transit, both AirTrains, PATH, Newark City Subway, Hudson-Bergen, lines that are under construction, and major ferry routes. Very informative, and it is updated regularly.
This is really what Newark needs. Cities tend to do better with good rail transit transportation.
Originally Posted by JCDJ
The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a huge, Gothic Cathedral seen from Branch Brook Park, another park by Olmstead and Vaux. Branch Brook Park boasts more cherry blossoms than the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.
This is actually more of an extension of the Newark subway (same system, same cars) and is the key link between Broad St (Lackawana) station and Penn Station. Its basically the same as the Jersey City/Bayonne light rail, and eventually all will be connected...Originally Posted by NYatKNIGHT
Work has steadily been progressing on the Newark waterfront promenade...
Installation of concrete formwork in preparation of concrete pour
Dewatered cofferdam area and concrete curing with burlap cover
Recently completed bulkhead looking south towards Penn Station