Newark approves tax breaks aimed at spurring development outside downtown

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on January 12, 2016

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka signs an ordinance approving tax abatements for new construction outside the city's downtown, airport or seaport districts on Monday, Jan. 11, 2015.

 

NEWARK – As development in Newark appears to be trending upward, officials are taking measures aimed at ensuring any new era of prosperity will extend to the city's most needy neighborhoods.

On Monday, Mayor Ras Baraka signed amendments to an existing ordinance that will grant five-year tax abatements for newly constructed commercial, industrial or multiple-dwelling properties outside the downtown, airport and seaport districts.

"This new initiative will accelerate development outside of downtown, with a five-year window that enables building the housing, commercial, and industrial projects we need to revitalize our neighborhoods," Baraka said in a statement.

Under the plan, newly constructed buildings will receive a five-year tax assessment based on one of three formulas: either 2 percent of its construction costs, 15 percent of its gross annual revenues or a plan that allows it to pay no taxes during the first year, while paying an additional 20 percent of its assessment over the following four.

The newly amended ordinance also provides incentive for existing landlords to make improvements to their properties, offering to hold assessments steady for five years should their projects meet city standards.

All abatements and exemptions and proposed improvements will still require approval from the City Council or tax assessor.

The newly signed ordinance comes as areas in and around the city's downtown continue to attract significant new attention from developers, resulting in rapid transformation around the Prudential Center, New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Military Park.

Work is already underway on a new mixed-use development that will bring a Whole Foods supermarket to the former Hahne's building on Broad Street, and developers are currently eying a newly available plot just east of Newark Penn Station that stakeholders say could bring a high-rise office tower or apartment building to the city's iconic Ironbound District.

As new businesses and loft apartment buildings go up, however, many residents have challenged officials as to how they plan to develop long-suffering areas such as the South and West wards, where crime, unemployment and poverty still cast a pall over much of daily life.

Officials such as Baye Adofo-Wilson, the city's deputy mayor for economic and housing development, say the new abatement program could prove part of the answer to those concerns. In a statement, he called the move "one of the most aggressive measures we have taken to improve our neighborhoods."

"This five-year abatement allows everyone to participate in the city's growth and development," he said.

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