By Joshua Burd
State officials are sending more than $25 million in grant funds to support 13 businesses and commercial projects in the downtowns of Newark and Atlantic City.
According to the Economic Development Authority, which approved the awards at its monthly board meeting last week, the grants will focus on rehabilitating and renovating current infrastructure as well as the construction of new property. In the process, officials hope the projects will help create an environment necessary to attract and retain residents and talent, enable business creation and attraction and enhance downtown vitality.
The board is allocating the Real Estate Rehabilitation and Development Grants under the Activation, Revitalization and Transformation or A.R.T. Program, with projects ranging from fixing up a vacant storefront in Atlantic City into a ceramics and pottery arts studio to opening a new restaurant at a historic bank building in Newark.
“New Jersey’s downtowns are essential to our state’s economy and culture and in the wake of the pandemic,” said Tim Sullivan, the Economic Development Authority’s CEO. “Governor Phil Murphy has been committed to ushering in a resurgence in these downtowns. The funding awarded today will allow entities to rehabilitate vacant and blighted properties to encourage businesses, commuters and residents back to city centers.”
The EDA noted that the A.R.T. program uses so-called State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds under the federal government’s American Rescue Plan, adding that commercial corridors play a vital role in the economies of both urban and rural areas. Atlantic City and Newark, two of New Jersey’s largest cities, were also among the hardest hit during the pandemic.
“The sum of these funds — whether to establish dining venues, art studios, space for creative work and communal collaboration, or an agricultural and nutritional center — are each, and collectively, earmarked for the nourishment of all aspects of Newark’s vitality as a thriving community,” Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said. “On behalf of all Newarkers, I thank NJEDA for these real estate and development grants so crucial to our present and future well-being and growth.”
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. added: “The Small administration has had much success in instilling investor confidence, making the great city of Atlantic City a hub for future development once again. With the help of our partners with the NJEDA, we’ll be able to use this grant funding to push some of our major projects throughout Atlantic City forward, particularly in the Orange Loop area, which has undergone a significant renaissance in recent years.”
The following entities were approved for grants on Feb. 7:
155 S Tennessee QOZB, LLC – $2 million
- The “Surf Lodge” project will create first-floor retail space, a surf shop and 12 residential units with a focus on building Atlantic City’s underdeveloped, yet significant, surfing destination status. Community surf culture will be developed through education/lessons while leveraging the Orange Loop’s scalable model of small, yet purposeful development on the beach blocks of Atlantic City.
1519 Boardwalk QOZB LLC – $1.975 million
- The project will consist of the rehabilitation of the former James Salt Water Taffy factory at 1519 Boardwalk into a boutique hotel and fine dining restaurant. The project plans include the buildout of the 28-room, five-story James Hotel, a boutique luxury hotel concept, along with a 180-seat Southern/soul food restaurant known as Kelsey’s on the Boardwalk.
2702 Arctic Ave Associates LLC – $2.785 million
- The project will focus on the rehabilitation of a vacant and blighted former hardware store at 2702 Arctic Avenue into a shared arts and co-working space with a small residential component. The Key project will include a 5,000-square-foot open span, maintaining flexibility to be activated as community gathering space for senior and cultural activities; exhibit space for visual arts; or performing arts venue. Two residential units will provide an ongoing income source for project operations.
MAP 3 Partners LLC – $2.485 million
- The entity will use the funding for the construction of The Orange Loop Container Park (OLCP), which will use renovated shipping containers to transform the vacant lot located at 1400 Pacific Ave. in Atlantic City with a unique business concept. Twenty-eight shipping containers of eight by 20 feet will be outfitted to house a hydroponic farm for growing vegetables and mushrooms, retail spaces for local vendors, classroom and community activation space, a record-pressing facility and recording and rehearsal studios. Plans also include rooftop outdoor seating and art installations, roadside murals along the backside of the containers and installing a stage for live performances.
MudGirls Studios – $604,609
- The nonprofit corporation will use the funding for the rehabilitation of a vacant storefront at 3711 Ventnor Ave. into a ceramics/pottery arts studio with retail, training and office space. The new space will help grow MudGirls’ mission by providing opportunities and training in art and entrepreneurship to economically disadvantaged and at-risk women, which will help transition them out of poverty and onto a pathway of self-sufficiency.
Ablem Food Services NJ LLC – $2.518 million
- Ablem Food Services will use the funding for the rehabilitation of a former office building space at 550 Market St. A new eatery known as Melba’s 550 will include a 250-seat soul food inspired fine dining restaurant and large commissary kitchen for catering and satellite locations. The project is intended to create up to 250 jobs and looks to create long-term impact on the neighborhood by fostering community engagement, supporting local businesses and increasing foot traffic.
Delta’s Newark II LLC – $3.494 million
- The entity will use the funding for the renovation of a historic bank building and hotel project at 810 Broad St. The new southern-Soul-inspired fine dining project will include a 110-seat restaurant and music venue and a 120-seat rooftop lounge. The restaurant will occupy the existing 8,500-square-foot vacant restaurant space on the basement, first floor and rooftop levels.
EqualSpace LLC – $2.007 million
- Funding will be used for the renovation of multiple floors at 550 Market St. The =SPACE is a shared space and incubator dedicated to providing a safe space for Black and Brown women, men and those within the LGBTQIA+ community. The project includes three floors with resources for multiple types of entrepreneurs including virtual desk options up to headquarter office spaces for small to medium businesses. Amenities will include conference rooms, a podcast studio, classroom space, a multimedia studio and an event space.
Hospitality Concepts LLC – $3.31 million
- The project will consist of the buildout of a vacant space at 110 Edison Place. Katherine’s will be a 175-seat restaurant, bar, microbrewery and retail bakery. The project’s focus will be on revitalizing downtown Newark by filling a void of much-needed restaurant and event space and will support Newark’s arts and entertainment, catering, business events for the arts and entertainment, board of education, local/state government agencies, corporate partnerships, small businesses and residential family needs. In addition, the brewery is planned to be leveraged as a tourist attraction for the city of Newark.
Newark Science and Sustainability – $400,000
- Funding will be used for the new construction of classroom, office and workspaces for an urban agricultural center located at 5 Fairmount Ave. The Garden of Hope Agriculture Hub and Sustainability Training Center will create a Farm-to-Table cooperative, hold workshops on nutrition, urban farming and generational sustainability, increase access to local food via farmers markets and develop policy that encourages more consumption of local foods via Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and other assistance programs.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center – $1.5 million
- New Jersey Performing Arts Center requested $1.5 million to fund the acquisition of land for the renovation and adaptive reuse of a former Episcopal Church office building. The Cooperman Family Arts Education and Community Center Annex, located at 31 Mulberry St., will house classrooms, community gathering spaces and office space for NJPAC’s staff. The project will accommodate additional space needed for NJPAC’s expanding programs in Arts Education, Community Engagement, Arts & Well-being and the creation of new performance work.
Project for Empty Space – $1.01 million
- The project will consist of the renovation of a former office space into nearly 36,500 square feet of studio and public programming space on four floors of 800 Broad St. and the renovation of a former lobby space into a public gallery with 3,700 square feet of ground0floor, park-facing space at 110 Edison Place in Ironside Newark. The project would allow Project for Empty Space to provide more public programming for growing audiences and provide additional studio space, art production workshop, materials and career development opportunities at a more deeply subsidized rate for local, working artists.
RBH-TRB East Mezz Urban Renewal Entity LLC – $1.061 million
- Funding will be used for the renovation of a vacant storefront in the Teacher’s Village complex at 23 William St. The project will create a new Newark Glass Art Center, including studios, classrooms and offices for GlassRoots, the 22-year-old Newark-based glassmaking nonprofit. The project will include galleries, educational spaces, offices and arts workshops that serve as an anchor arts institution within Newark’s arts and education district and deepen its impact through continued and new programs with schools and community partners.