Newark Mayor Ras Baraka (center) on Wednesday led a tour of development sites and office buildings that were included in the city’s 250-page bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. At left is Aisha Glover, CEO and president of the Newark Community Economic Development Corp. — Photos by Jeffrey Vock for Real Estate NJ
By Joshua Burd
Five years ago, Newark wouldn’t have even been in the conversation.
At least that’s how Mayor Ras Baraka sees it when it comes to the city’s bid to be selected as the site of Amazon’s coveted second headquarters project. He believes Newark wouldn’t have been able to win the official backing of the state in making its bid, he said, nor would city officials have been able to convince competing developers to parcel their sites together in order to meet the company’s requirement for at least 8 million square feet of office space.
That has all changed in a big way — thanks to billions of dollars in new investment that has begun to transform the city and galvanized public- and private-sector leaders.
“It’s a different place, a different atmosphere, so everybody being together gives us a greater opportunity to get things done,” Baraka said. “And that’s exactly what’s happening here.”
It was the sentiment on Wednesday as Baraka and his economic development team led a tour of the office buildings and development sites that were included as part of Newark’s 250-page submission to Amazon. Like dozens of other cities and regions around the country, Newark is eagerly awaiting a decision from the Seattle-based e-commerce giant, starting with the announcement of a short list that reportedly will come by early next year.
Renderings courtesy: City of Newark
Earlier this fall, Newark won the official support of the state and the promise of a $5 billion tax credit package that the city can combine with its own incentives. On Wednesday, city officials offered even greater detail of what they offered in their Olympic-style bid to help Amazon envision its footprint in Newark.
The buildings and development sites include:
- 33 Washington Street (250,000 square feet), owned by the Berger Organization
- 520 Broad Street (350,000 square feet), owned by IDT
- 2 Gateway Center (655,953 square feet), owned by C&K Properties
- Matrix Riverfront Plaza (5.6 acres), owned by Matrix Development Group
- Lotus Riverfront/Bears Stadium (11.8 acres), owned by Lotus Equities and the Berger Organization
- Mulberry Commons/Ironbound (15.5 acres), owned by Edison Properties and J&L Cos.
- Broad and Market/SoMA (8.9 acres), owned by RBH Group
One of the key requirements was the availability of 500,000 square feet of move-in ready office space, which the city is offering at 33 Washington, 520 Broad and the Gateway complex. The city has told Amazon that the other properties are available to break ground next year.
But Baraka and his team noted that the sites could accommodate well beyond 8 million square feet, offering a great degree of flexibility or additional room for expansion. Aisha Glover, CEO and president of the Newark Community Economic Development Corp., said the proposal to Amazon offers it the chance to either focus around Newark Penn Station or occupy multiple neighborhoods in the downtown.
“What we wanted to do was really pull together a menu of options for Amazon, where they could pick one site or multiple sites,” Glover said. “They can be spread out across a campus-like environment or be more connected with the community.”
Photos by Jeffrey Vock for Real Estate NJ
Of course, the office space is only one piece of what Newark pitched to Amazon, which laid out a detailed list of requirements in a request for proposals issued this fall. The city has touted everything from its access to talent and education and a vast web of underground fiber optic cable that can produce the fastest internet in the country at affordable prices.
That’s not to mention cultural offerings such as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Prudential Center, along with open space such as the planned 22-acre Mulberry Commons project and a three-mile waterfront revitalization along the Passaic River. City officials also pointed to other key requirements, including the ability to have 10 percent of Amazon’s workforce live within walking distance of the office.
Newark has that, especially with its residential pipeline that is now producing new market-rate apartments after years of delays. The city also touted the availability of hotel rooms, with five existing or soon-to-be completed projects downtown and three more in the pipeline.
“If you study their model as to their site selection approach, I think we have a really strong, favorable chance,” said Carmelo Garcia, the city’s acting deputy mayor for economic and housing development. “I truly believe that, given where Newark is right now with the $3 billion happening in redevelopment and reinvestment in the city.”
Baraka gave credit to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, the city’s former mayor, for laying much of the groundwork that has allowed Newark to make a competitive bid. And the city can celebrate another economic development victory as it awaits Amazon’s answer: Earlier this week, the parent company of Mars Wrigley announced it would move to Newark by 2020 and occupy a large space within Edison Properties’ Ironside Newark project.
It’s a big reason why, regardless of Amazon’s decision, Newark can be supremely confident in its ability to attract other companies going forward. Especially after having completed the rigorous submission process that has resulted in a playbook for drawing other major tenants.
“Being involved in the process helps to elevate our profile … and letting everybody know what Newark has,” Baraka said. “So it’s not just about Amazon. It’s about putting the word out there so that everybody knows what’s going on in the city of Newark. And if Amazon doesn’t come, we’ll be welcoming other people to the city.”