Newark eyes new life at long-vacant former Pabst brewery

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 24, 2016

Rashid Ashanti of Gladstone Street and a member of the Neighborhood Square Block Association walks by the former Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery on South Orange Avenue in Newark in 2004.

 

NEWARK — There may soon be something brewing at a long-vacant building in the city's West Ward.

The 4-acre former Pabst Blue Ribbon property on South Orange Avenue — often noted for the 60-foot beer bottle replica visible from the Garden State Parkway — is the latest object of Newark's gaze as they attempt to repurpose the many buildings left behind as Pabst and other industrial titans left the city decades ago.

The Newark Community Economic Development Corporation is currently weighing a number of proposals for the site from developers who responded to a request for proposals issued in December.

Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Baye Adofo-Wilson said he and other officials are currently weighing whether to move forward with one of the respondents to fulfill its vision of a mixed-use commercial and residential project.

"We want to make sure it fits with what we want to see in this site," he said.

The building was originally occupied by companies such as Hoffman Pale Dry Ginger Ale, but was sold to Milwaukee-based Pabst in 1945. Over the next 40 years, the facility churned out the company's trademark beers, but eventually left Newark in 1986.

While drivers continued to regard the trademark bottle continued its role as a beacon of the North Jersey landscape — it was even prominently featured on multiple episodes of "The Sopranos" — until its removal in 2006, a closer look revealed a dilapidated building that attracted crowds of the homeless, prostitutes and drug dealers.

"It's a problem area, and an eyesore," said West Ward Councilman Joe McCallum.

The property is currently valued at just over $3 million, though any buyer would face significant challenges left behind by its former industrial tenants.

The building was partially demolished in 2006, though what remains was damaged by a large fire two years later. Groundwater at the site is contaminated, according to the RFP issued in December, and the state Department of Environmental Protection is assessing penalties against its current owner for operating an illegal landfill.

It also lies miles from downtown, where most development activity has been focused, making it all the more important to fulfill Mayor Ras Baraka's promises that any new prosperity would be felt even in the most downtrodden neighborhoods.

Adofo-Wilson said the site, which lies partially in Irvington, is adjacent to one of the city's "Model Neighborhood" zones, where street-cleaning and job creation efforts are being concentrated in hopes of lighting the first sparks of revitalization.

"We've been working heavily in trying to revitalize the West Ward," he said. "Our goal is to create as many jobs as we can."

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