Stakeholders gathered in late April to break ground on a project to restore the former St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark — Courtesy: Giovana Moreano/Hollister Construction Services
By Joshua Burd
A nonprofit focused on education through glassmaking will anchor a historic hospital building in Newark that is now being restored as a creative hub for arts and sciences.
The organization, GlassRoots, will occupy more than 18,000 square feet on the ground floor of the former St. Michael’s Hospital. The nonprofit is expected to collaborate with other groups to revitalize the property and serve as a catalyst for the city’s University Heights section.
Officials with GlassRoots, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and other stakeholders gathered recently to mark the start of the $2.1 million renovation.
“GlassRoots is so much more than the glass arts,” said Barbara Heisler, CEO of GlassRoots. “Through glass, we introduce math and science in unique ways, help our students create paths for their futures and nourish important life skills in our community.
“The move to this larger space will allow us to welcome more people in our community and help lead a resurgence of creativity and economic vibrancy in Newark.”
All photos courtesy: Giovana Moreano/Hollister Construction Services
Programs at the new facility are meant to both foster the arts and help participants develop knowledge and skills to succeed in their careers, according to a news release. GlassRoots will join other organizations at the newly restored facility, including Nai-Ni Chen Dance Co. and Newark Arts.
Hollister Construction Services is the construction manager for the project.
“Hollister Construction is proud to partner with GlassRoots to construct their new creative hub within the historic St. Michael’s Hospital building,” Brendan Murray, executive vice president with Hollister, said after the groundbreaking in late April. “We’ve been committed to Newark and its revitalization since our inception in 2004, and we are confident the redeveloped site will transform the neighborhood and bring new opportunities to downtown Newark. Today is a special day as we join the groundbreaking and celebrate what’s to come.”
The full renovation is expected to take eight months, with the new spaces slated to open in early 2019. The GlassRoots space will include:
- Three glass art studios: a flame shop to form glass beads and small pieces; a flat shop to create fused glass, castings and mosaics; and a hot shop to blow glass in a 2200-degree furnace
- Kiln, mold and sandblasting studios and a finishing shop
- A professional scientific glassblowing production and repair shop, which will bring on-the-job training opportunities and jobs to Newark
- Flexible spaces to house workforce development programs and facilitate other entrepreneurial activities
- Gallery space with a quasi-permanent “history of glass” exhibit from the Newark Museum to provide a robust educational experience for visitors, including school groups.
- Income-generating spaces including a gift shop showcasing the work of students, teaching artists and regional glass artists; a coffee shop; and a gallery as a venue for regional glass artists to exhibit work, which will also be available for event rentals.
The Nicholson Foundation, a Newark-based organization, was slated to contribute $1.5 million as part of the fundraising for the GlassRoots project. Through late April, GlassRoots had raised nearly $1.5 million.
“My father supported GlassRoots at its inception because of the vision that it could reach, engage and help Newark’s youth,” said Jan Nicholson, president of The Nicholson Foundation. “Today, 17 years later, it is giving young people boundless opportunities for personal and professional development.”
Other partners in the project include the city of Newark, New Jersey Community Capital, Hanini Group, Hollister Construction and Crawford Street Partners.