Fidelco Realty Group is revitalizing a well-known office tower in downtown Newark at a cost of more than $30 million, with plans that include a sweeping physical upgrade, the addition of a new bar and restaurant and the creation of flexible workspace to serve technology startups. — Rendering courtesy: Fidelco/Perkins Eastman
By Joshua Burd
An acclaimed restaurateur in Harlem is expanding to Newark, with a location that will mark another step in Fidelco Realty Group’s plan to revitalize a well-known office building.
The new eatery by Melba Wilson, the founder of Melba’s Restaurant, will transform the base of the nearly 300,000-square-foot tower at 550 Broad St. Plans call for Melba’s 550 to open around late 2022, as the Marc Berson-led real estate firm progresses with its roughly $30 million overhaul of the historic downtown property.
“I eat fried chicken. You eat fried chicken and from that, we’ll build a unique experience that brings everyone together — we’re going to combine our minds and change lives,” Wilson said. “This is a very exciting moment for us: A Jewish guy from Newark and a Black woman from Harlem are showing that we all have so much in common through our love of food, family and community. The new restaurant will be in Newark, of Newark and for Newark.”
Occupying the former First National State Bank space, Melba’s 550 will have its own entrance from Broad Street, according to a news release. The restaurant will offer seating in the original bank vault, providing a unique dining experience, while featuring a separate coffee shop with a takeout window on Broad Street.
Fidelco, which has developed and repositioned several prominent buildings in downtown Newark, purchased 550 Broad in summer 2019. Its plans include a top-to-bottom renovation as well as an overhaul of the lobby and ground floor that was meant to attract a prominent restaurant and activate the building at street level.
“The addition of Melba’s to 550 Broad’s roster of tenants speaks volumes about this building’s significance to the Harriet Tubman Square neighborhood.” said Berson, Fidelco’s chairman, referring to the public space previously known as Washington Park. “From the moment we met Melba, I knew we were going to do something special together. We are gut renovating the lobby of this historic building and constructing a new front entrance from Broad Street that will align with the back of the building to create a public thoroughfare for the neighborhood.”
Architect David Rockwell of the award-winning Rockwell Group will participate in the design of the new restaurant.
“Melba understands the importance of gathering people around a meal and the sense of community that dining out creates,” said Rockwell, the firm’s founder and president. “The Newark location of Melba’s Restaurant will be a lively destination in this burgeoning city. I’m also thrilled that with this restaurant, and with Melba and Marc as partners, that I’m working for the first time in this wonderful city.”
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka welcomed the addition to the city’s northern Broad Street district.
“This new dining experience and its significance of location in the Harriet Tubman Square neighborhood is a landmark statement and it will add much value to our residents and to our city’s future growth,” Baraka said. “Thanks to Fidelco Realty Group, we will embark on this new culinary journey together that will only enhance Newark’s vibrancy and flavor. I am more than confident that this new location will be a premier destination for residents and visitors to create lasting memories and enjoy food that will feed their bodies and comfort their souls.”