By Joshua Burd
A developer has closed on its acquisition of the former Newark Bears baseball stadium in the state’s largest city, paving the way for it to redevelop the site into a sprawling mixed-use neighborhood.
Local officials said Thursday that the firm, New York-based Lotus Equity Group, had completed its purchase of the former stadium from the Essex County Improvement Authority. The developer has also picked the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, or PAU, to create a master plan that will transform the stadium and more than 7.5 acres of surrounding land.
Lotus did not disclose the purchase price.
Preliminary concept plans call for some 2.3 million square feet of residential, office, retail and cultural space, according to a news release from the city of Newark. Lotus is expected to rely on its location at Broad and Orange streets — which is just 500 feet from NJ Transit’s Broad Street station, seconds from Interstate 280 and at the foot of University Heights — to help draw tenants and serve as a catalyst for the neighborhood.
“The Lotus development project will bring jobs, housing and new opportunities to Newarkers,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a prepared statement. “Newark is in the midst of a major revitalization effort that is transforming our entire city.
“This project anchors our downtown development activities and brings new living and working options to current residents, students and those looking to make Newark their home.”
The former Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, which has loomed in downtown Newark as other redevelopment has moved ahead in recent years, has been without an anchor team since the minor league baseball team was shut down in 2013.The Essex County Improvement Authority has owned and managed the stadium for the city of Newark and Essex County.
For Lotus Equity Group CEO Ben Korman, it’s a chance to extend his footprint in the city after he acquired 2 Gateway Center a decade ago.
“We are extremely excited to continue our decade-long history of investing in Newark by delivering a dynamic and sustainable development to the city’s downtown that will create a pedestrian-friendly and vibrant atmosphere for existing and new residents to live, work, and play,” Korman said. “This truly is a premier site offering unparalleled connectivity in the heart of a culturally rich and diverse community, and we look forward to collaborating with the city to realize its transformation into a 24/7 neighborhood destination.”
The site is just a few blocks north of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where a long-awaited, $116 million redevelopment project known as One Theater Square is finally set to break ground.
“This parcel is one of the gateways into the city of Newark and the proposed development by Lotus will transform it into an anchor at the northern end of the city’s downtown,” County Executive Joe DiVincenzo said. “The project brings new energy to Newark and Essex County and will create business, residential and entertainment opportunities and much needed activity to that area of the city.”
PAU was founded in 2015 by Vishaan Chakrabarti, whose past work includes the master plan and first building of the Domino Sugar site in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, as well as the master plan and first building at the Essex Crossing site at Manhattan’s Seward Park.
“We are thrilled to participate in the ongoing rejuvenation of Newark at this critically important site for the city and the region,” Chakrabarti said. “Offering extraordinary connectivity to both transit and broadband, this site and the mix of uses proposed for it, offer the potential to make Newark part of the region’s 21st century innovation economy, while harkening back to the roots of Newark’s rich history of density, culture, production and leisure.”