Shaq is opening a $79M apartment tower in N.J.

Former NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal is making his mark on his hometown skyline. 

And much like the 7-foot-1-inch sports legend, the 22-story apartment complex -- colloquially called "Shaq Towers" -- will hover over the city's downtown as its first high-rise in more than 50 years

"I remember when I was growing up (the city) used to be beautiful like this so the older I get, I want it to be a little more beautiful," O'Neal told NJ Advance Media. "I invest in things that are going to make a difference."

On Tuesday, O'Neal, a Newark native, was joined by Gov. Phil Murphy, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and Mayor Ras Baraka to mark a milestone in the building's construction. 

"Yet another piece of evidence that this city is on the rise, let there be no doubt about it," Murphy said. "This is a city that has got a trajectory that is undeniable ... as our big urban centers go, first and foremost as Newark goes, so goes the state of New Jersey."

The $79 million luxury apartments, developed by Boraei Developmentand O'Neal, are steps from the New Jersey Performing Arts Centerand the renovated Hahne & Co. building that includes a Whole Foodsand the newest restaurant by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. 

The 168 apartments at 1 Rector Street will open by the end of the year with residents able to apply for a lease as soon as September, Wasseem Boraie told NJ Advance Media. He said the company bought the property -- which used to house the old Science Park High School10 years ago -- but construction didn't begin until last October

"We were waiting for the right time," Boraie said, citing new businesses in the area. "We all then build up around the supply."

O'Neal also announced a new $150 million, 350-unit apartment complex with Boraie (whom he called "the Kobe Bryant of development"). The 35-story building on 777 McCarter Highway will be known as the "House that Shaq Built," O'Neal said. 

"I was born and raised here, I love this city," O'Neal said during a press conference after struggling to lift the microphones at the podium to his height.

O'Neal recalled a 1992 visit to Newark to see his relatives. "My mother says to me, 'I remember when this city used to be beautiful, somebody needs to come back and invest in this city and make it beautiful again,' then she gave me the elbow to the chest like I'm that somebody," he said. 

Goldman Sachs, which is investing in 1 Rector Street, will also invest in the new development. The company has already invested $600 million in the city through various projects. 

A new program in Newark called Project IMPACT also partnered with O'Neal and Boraie to help train local residents for unionized jobs. So far, 18 individuals have been placed as apprentices. 

Mayor Ras Baraka said the city wanted to make sure developers gave Newarkers a share of the jobs "to make sure that we can create pipelines for Newark residents to be a part of the growth and development that's happening here in Newark."

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