Setting Bold New Standards
By Michael Roney
Photography: Zlatko Batistich
Cory A. Booker, Newark, New Jersey’s dynamic young mayor, took office after a sweeping election victory in 2006, setting a new standard in expectations for his city. A Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law graduate with a hands-on track record of working to improve urban communities, Mayor Booker happens to be a lot like Newark — smart and visionary, with a world-class platform of talent and tools to support success.
“My administration was elected to bring change and transformation to Newark,” says Booker. “We must have a comprehensive vision of that future, and it must be one that includes all of our residents and stakeholders.”
As part of that vision, Booker is nourishing a strong business climate supported by an unparalleled transportation network, a skilled workforce, major cultural and entertainment venues, elite medical and educational institutions and a premier location just eight miles west of Manhattan at the locus of North America’s largest consumer market.
Connected to the World
Newark contains some of the finest infrastructure in the U.S. and indeed the world. “It’s an incredible platform to build upon and it’s an enormous advantage,” states Deputy Mayor Stefan Pryor, chairman of the Brick City Development Corporation (BCDC), Newark’s economic development arm. Consider the facts:
Photography: Arthur Paxton
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey continues to invest billions in the entire system, with enhancements to the PATH rail, ongoing expansion and improvements at Newark Airport, a planned new commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River to Manhattan, and continued investments and dredging to keep Port Newark/Elizabeth at the vanguard of East Coast ports.
“The City of Newark plays a vital role as a transportation nexus for New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area,” says Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia. “The Port Authority’s ongoing investments will improve access to Newark and the surrounding region by plane and train for decades to come.”
The Place to Be
Major corporate icons such as Prudential, Verizon, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Continental Airlines are being joined in Newark by a steady stream of savvy international companies attracted by the city’s singular business advantages:
“We believe in the mayor’s vision for Newark, and we are proud to be a part of it,” says Donald Katz, chief executive officer and founder of audiobook Web retailer Audible.com. “Beyond this, our move from a more suburban location to Newark allows us to take advantage of the city’s transportation hub so that our employees and the actors and actresses who come to Audible to narrate audiobooks can enjoy quick and easy access. Our employees have become active in the community as volunteers and are regular attendees at events at the Prudential Center arena and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).”
Mimeo.com, an online and on-demand document production and shipping firm, recently opened a 75,000-square-foot data center and print production and distribution facility. The company was assisted by an $840,000 grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Business Employment Incentive Program, awarded for creating at least 150 jobs in the community. “Mimeo.com’s products need to be packaged and shipped for just-in-time delivery around the world, and that’s only possible via cities like Newark, given our world-class transportation infrastructure,” says Pryor.
London’s Standard Chartered Bank is another recent arrival. Based in London with offices in New York City, the firm looked at a number of locations across the region and decided to locate its expansion space in Newark, which will ultimately bring hundreds of jobs to the city’s Gateway Complex near Penn Station.
Pryor says Newark is undertaking a focused effort to attract Portuguese business, given the robust presence of Portuguese culture in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood. The largest Portuguese bank, Millennium bcp bank, is already headquartered in Newark, and the Portugal-based medical genetics testing company, CGC Genetics, has decided to locate its first American outlet in Newark’s University Science Park, which is close to the city’s six colleges and universities.
Prudential was established in 1875 in Newark to offer working-class Americans affordable burial insurance. Prudential is now a financial services leader with operations around the world. But it has never forgotten its promise to be a strong, reliable and creative partner in the life of Newark.
Prudential continues to be at the forefront of forging a public-private partnership with the city of its birth and to leverage its resources to address the potential of a city on the rise. Through The Prudential Foundation, the company focuses on education by funding projects to inspire new teachers, develop career pipelines in education and support new administrative leadership. The Prudential Social Investment Program is one of the nation’s leaders in providing start-up capital and real estate financing for charter schools. And multitudes of its employees volunteer to tutor school children and serve on the boards of nonprofit organizations that supply the lifeblood of the city’s civic sector.
Prudential remains proud to call Newark its home.
Newark’s Brick City Development Corporation is instrumental in helping these and other businesses thrive in the city. “We’re a resource to both executives and entrepreneurs, whether they’re currently in the city or thinking about coming,” says Joseph F. Ritchie, chief executive officer of BCDC. “We certainly should be one of their first stops as they are considering their options, as we can make sure they’re exposed to everything Newark has to offer.”
Among BCDC’s programs is Access Newark, an office that current or prospective businesses can reach out to if they need to renew a license, resolve a tax issue or address any number of other municipal issues. Access Newark streamlines those processes to help businesses get up and running more efficiently.
Financial incentive programs add further to Newark’s appeal for business:
“We have relationships with various funding agencies, such as the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and we are working toward providing other pools of money that can be used as incentives for development and business relocation,” says Ritchie. “We can model those benefits and communicate to CFOs or entrepreneurs in very concrete terms the economic benefit that can be achieved by coming to Newark. We’ve actually put together a model that gives us the ability to compare Newark to five or six competing locations around the region.”
Ritchie notes that Newark currently has about 14 million square feet of office space downtown with very low Class A vacancy. “We’re in a position to support additional development, with four additional sites downtown ready for development,” he adds.
World-Class Education and Research
Newark’s business-friendly environment is greatly enhanced by its standing as a major education and research center with six colleges and universities that between them have 60,000 students and faculty.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), based in the vibrant University Heights district, is renowned for its expertise in architecture, applied mathematics, wireless communications and networking, solar physics, advanced engineered particulate materials, nanotechnology, neural engineering and e-learning. In the past two years, both The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report have ranked NJIT in the top tier of national universities.
“Newark is NJIT’s hometown,” says Robert A. Altenkirch, president of NJIT, “and we provide educational programs, summer enrichment camps for K-12 students, and cultural and athletic events for the greater Newark community and surrounding areas. We are intimately connected to the community through these efforts as well as being a major driver for redevelopment of the downtown and neighborhood next to the campus to provide retail amenities and living options for the community and NJIT faculty, staff and students.”
NJIT has made a major commitment to physical improvements on its campus and to new educational programs in fields such as biomedical engineering. Continuing the initiative started two decades ago, the NJIT Enterprise Development Center (EDC) is currently home to some 90 companies employing over 300 people. To date, the EDC has graduated over 85 successful businesses.
The downtown Newark campus of Rutgers, New Jersey’s state university, has a long and proud tradition of providing a first-rate education to students of diverse backgrounds through scores of undergraduate and advanced degree programs. Rutgers’ Newark campus hosts the university’s internationally respected School of Law and School of Criminal Justice, and its School of Public Affairs and Administration has received top national rankings from U.S. News and World Report. Rutgers’ highly ranked School of Business is opening a new Newark facility in the fall, further enhancing the city’s world-class knowledge base.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is another leading Newark asset. It is the state’s university of health sciences and the largest of its kind in the U.S., and has emerged as a major research center in the health sciences. This research helps fuel New Jersey’s economic engine and supports key industries such as pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
Last year, more than 1,200 researchers worked at UMDNJ on 951 projects in basic, clinical, educational and other research. Its University Hospital is one of the country’s leading state-of-the-art trauma centers, as well as a leader in liver transplants, spinal surgeries, kidney disease treatment, geriatric care and high-risk obstetrics, offering the surrounding communities extraordinary access to healthcare and community outreach services.
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
UMDNJ means…The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the state’s university of the health sciences and the largest of its kind in the U.S., educating our next generation of doctors, dentists, nurses, allied healthcare professionals and research scientists.
UMDNJ means…significant benefits for Newark and its residents:
UMDNJ means…a healthy Newark, and a healthy New Jersey.
No urban transformation would be worthwhile without that perfect complement to rigorous work and study: plenty of daily and nightly entertainment. Newark is a thriving cultural hub, offering big-league sports, museums and musical venues, including the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, based in the new $375 million Prudential Center arena downtown. The mix also includes the Newark Bears minor-league baseball team, Newark Museum, Symphony Hall and the stunning New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). A short walk away, the city’s fabled Portuguese Ironbound District is packed with superb restaurants and nightlife.
The new Prudential Center arena, known as “The Rock” in local parlance, is located near Penn Station and brings 18,000 people into Newark each event night. It’s a cornerstone in the revitalization of downtown, nourishing scores of new condominiums, restaurants, themed bars and mixed retail establishments. NJPAC, home of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and host for myriad international theatrical productions, pop, R&B and jazz performances, acts as the cultural and economic anchor for its own neighborhood a few blocks north.
“There’s a new and exciting scene in Newark,” Pryor says. “More than a half-dozen restaurants have opened in the past couple of years. For example, the Brick City Bar & Grill near the Prudential Center is busy every evening, even on non-event nights.”
A trolley-style shuttle bus — a tribute to the 2,000 trolleys that graced Newark in their heyday — now runs directly from the Prudential Center to the scores of restaurants in the nearby Ironbound neighborhood. Newark’s Convention & Visitors Bureau published a Zagat restaurant guide this year, and organized the city’s first-ever Restaurant Week last fall. It also launched a promotion with 100 restaurants offering special discounts to commemorate the Newark Museum’s 100th Anniversary.
“Newark has long been celebrated for its eclectic cuisine, especially in our Ironbound District,” says Mayor Booker. “Our Restaurant Week highlights the efforts of local entrepreneurs who are dedicated to providing stellar service to residents and visitors alike, and adds yet another chapter to Newark’s longstanding tradition of delicious dining.”
Luxury Downtown Living
Newark’s renaissance is crowned with numerous new residential developments now under way around the Prudential Center and NJPAC. The Richardson Lofts, just a ten-minute walk from Newark Penn Station and a few blocks from the Prudential Center, will feature 67 one- and two-bedroom apartments that will be accessible through a unique common atrium restored from the building’s original 20th-century use as a jewelry factory.
Dranoff Properties of Philadelphia is building 300 residential units immediately adjacent to NJPAC in what is slated to become the tallest building in Newark. The 40-plus-story tower will set aside 20% of the units for artists and will feature over 20,000 square feet of street-level, high-quality retail, including restaurants, cafes and shops. “This project will strengthen our downtown, add hundreds of new housing units and create construction jobs in our city,” notes Booker.
Also next to NJPAC, Seton Hall University Law School is building a residence hall, while a partnership backed by basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal is planning a 152-unit $90 million luxury condominium. And the entire downtown residential scene will be enhanced further with the completion of the revitalization of Minish Park into a two-mile riverfront area with open space and mixed-use development, including 9,000 feet of walkway along the Passaic River.
A Bright Future
“Our great historic city continues to distinguish itself as the exciting city of today,” says Booker. “Around the country, people are taking notice of Newark’s significant achievements. Businesses are moving to our city, bringing jobs and energy.”
Indeed, Newark’s ongoing enhancements, forward-looking vision, and proactive business assistance are burnishing its current standing as a city rich in infrastructure, education and opportunity, setting bold new standards for a bright future.
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