After 10 years and $42M, Newark set to break ground on downtown park

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 09, 2016

A rendering of the future Newark Triangle Park.

 

NEWARK – It will have taken more than a decade and upwards of $40 million, but it appears Newark's long-awaited Triangle Park may soon become reality.

After striking an agreement with area property owners and the owners of the Prudential Center arena, officials say they are on track to break ground on the 22-acre project as soon as next month, with an expected opening date sometime in 2018.

"The city is really excited about a project that will reshape what downtown Newark looks like," said Baye Adofo-Wilson, the city's deputy mayor for housing and economic development.

"It will create jobs. It will create a new image for what Newark is."

The 22-acre park has long been envisioned as a lush link between Newark's Ironbound district, Penn Station and recently completed arena – a centerpiece of plans for a re-energized, pedestrian-friendly downtown centered around bars, restaurants and other entertainment options.

Originally proposed in 2005, it quickly became mired in government red tape. By 2011, the city had spent $12 million on research, analyses and marketing plans, with nothing to show for it.

In more recent years, litigation between the city and developers surrounding right to the land and whether to include retail space in the park had bogged it down even further.

Another developer, New Bruswick-based Boraie Development, was forced to divest itself of its interest in the project after officials designated their portion of the land as open space. Shortly after that decision, the company received a $2 million contribution from the city to revive construction on a long-delayed high-rise tower backed by NBA great Shaquille O'Neal.

Since its inception, the project had been headed by the now-defunct Newark Downtown Core Redevelopment Corporation and the Newark Housing Authority, but was passed back to the city itself early in Baraka's administration.

At Wednesday's press conference, both developers and the mayor himself credited him with taking the lead to settle the lengthy dispute that had left the project to languish on the sidelines so long.

"I think ultimately everybody at the table wants the same thing. How do we get there is the issue," he said. "You need one driver of the bus. Ultimately there was only one driver, and the people elected that person in July 2014."

Officials estimate that the construction of the park over the next two years will cost approximately $30 million, paid for through a combination of bonding, state funding and private development dollars.

Adofo-Wilson said the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation has begun a formal search for a landscape design company that can guide the project as shovels hit the ground.

Once complete, it will include 2.5 acres of green space between Mulberry Street, Lafayette Street, Edison Place and McCarter Highway, as well as a half-mile footbridge from the Prudential Center to the Ironbound's Peter Francisco Park. On the periphery, the city and its partners plan to erect mixed-use development including both residential and commercial space for restaurants and retail shops.

"People are going to work here, people are going to live here, people are going to play here," said Ben Feigenbaum, chief operating officer for Edison Properties, which owns several parking lots that will be replaced by the park.

Despite the lengthy wait to see it take shape, officials such as Baraka said they remained as enthused about the park's potential as their predecessors were a decade ago.

"It creates public safety, it creates economic vibrance, it puts people into the arena," he said. "It is one step closer to where we want to be in the city of Newark."

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