Newark Mayor Ras Baraka joined the Newark Housing Authority and other city officials on Thursday to mark the start of demolition at Seth Boyden Court, a historic but blighted public housing complex at 164 Dayton St. — Courtesy: Twitter/@CityofNewarkNJ
By Joshua Burd
Newark city officials on Thursday took a key step toward redeveloping a historic but blighted public housing complex, where plans call for a new mixed-income residential complex and potential commercial uses such as business incubators, film studios and research space.
In a ceremony led by Mayor Ras Baraka, the city and its housing authority marked the start of demolition at the 12-building, 530-unit Seth Boyden Court property, which sits just west of Frelinghuysen Avenue at 164 Dayton St. Built in 1939, it was the municipality’s first public housing complex but was shuttered in 2015 due to high maintenance costs and public safety concerns, only to sit in limbo in the more than six years since.
But redevelopment is now moving forward, with the Newark Housing Authority having named Boraie Development as the developer of a mixed-income residential complex. According to the city, the agency is also considering options for a commercial component at the site.
“We are here today because we want to revitalize, repurpose and transform this whole neighborhood,” Baraka said. “It’s not just about this project, it’s about this entire community, the history of it and the future of what it’s going to be. There is going to be affordable and market housing, commercial development and we are even thinking of a film studio. This site will be an example of what we have the authority and power to do when we work together to make it happen.”
City officials on Thursday noted that Seth Boyden Court had served as a home to generations of children and families, anchoring the Dayton neighborhood alongside the Weequahic Golf Course. The complex received demolition approval in 2014 but sat idle due to a lack of funding to move forward, drawing squatters and illegal dumpers after tenants were relocated in 2015.
The Baraka administration ultimately stepped in and offered to extend a $4 million loan toward the demolition that would be repaid from redevelopment proceeds, according to a news release. While plans for the site are still in their early stages, Deputy Mayor for Economic and Housing Development Allison Ladd said the surrounding area is poised “to become an exciting mixed-use neighborhood.”
“Blight will be replaced by wonderful places for people of all incomes to live, and such commercial uses as business incubators, live performance theaters, film studios, and research and development,” Ladd said. “With the convenience of a new PATH station being built in that neighborhood and the beauty and recreation activities of Weequahic Park, this neighborhood will carry out Mayor Baraka’s vision of equitable growth and become a gem of the South Ward.”
City officials said the Dayton Street neighborhood has been declared an area in need of rehabilitation, adding that education, health and public safety options are all on the table. In the meantime, Perdomo of New York is carrying out the demolition.
“The Housing Authority and the Board of Commissioners are grateful to get to this point of the redevelopment process, which would not have been possible without the assistance of Mayor Baraka and the administration,” said Newark Housing Authority Executive Director Victor Cirilo, who was also in attendance. “We are ecstatic for the Dayton Street neighborhood and the city at large not only for the anchor redevelopment at this site, but also the vision for the entire neighborhood.”
The authority will work with state officials to assist with the financing of the environmental components, according to a news release, while it also anticipates support from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority through the newly created Aspire gap financing program.
“The revitalization that will happen here will enhance the quality of life for all the people in this area,” U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. said. “I know new affordable housing is imperative and at the top of the Mayor’s priorities. I am delighted to play a small part in it. We will keep the federal government interested in these projects and make sure that we continue the revitalization of Newark.”