By Joshua Burd
The city of Newark has launched a program aimed at filling vacant storefronts in its downtown, offering up to $650,000 in financial support to prospective retailers and restaurateurs.
Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Invest Newark, the city’s main economic development organization, say the program will provide low- to no-cost financial assistance to businesses in the area bordered by Broad and Washington streets between Washington Place and William Street. Funds can be used for exterior and interior improvements of the vacant space or the purchase of furniture, fixtures and equipment, as the municipality looks to grow its base of retail, cultural and food experiences and improve aesthetics, safety and quality of life in the central business district.
The city has developed the Newark Retail Reactivation Initiative in collaboration with Bloomberg Associates, the pro bono consulting arm of Bloomberg Philanthropies.
“The Newark Retail Reactivation Initiative will revitalize and accelerate the influx of entrepreneurial businesses making use of downtown vacant storefronts,” Baraka said. “Newark has become a magnet for entrepreneurs and small retail businesses. This program will make downtown even more attractive as a destination, a place for residents and visitors to enjoy. It is an important step in our strategy to make downtown a 24/7, exciting, walkable area where people can live, work and play.”
City officials noted that business and not-for-profit operators will be eligible for up to $650,000 in support, depending on the square footage of the storefront.
“The many residents and visitors already eating and shopping in the heart of Newark and the growing number of people coming downtown to enjoy festivals, concerts and other outdoor events has set the stage for an initiative such as this,” Invest Newark CEO and President Marcus Randolph said. “It is also a great complement to Audible’s Business Attraction Program that was recently announced. We hope businesses and organizations interested in locating in the focus area will utilize the different types of support being offered by local entities such as the Newark Alliance, as well as from statewide resources like the Small Business Improvement Grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.”
Evan Weiss, CEO and president and the Newark Alliance, added: “We’re excited to work with Mayor Baraka and our partners in developing a flexible but focused program to support entrepreneurs and fill the remaining storefront gaps along key downtown corridors like Halsey Street.”
According to a news release, the initiative is part of an ongoing effort to create more jobs, enhance public safety, beautify Newark and increase the number of businesses and organizations serving Newark residents and visitors alike.
“Cities across the country are struggling to revitalize their downtowns,” said Todd Rufo of the economic development team at Bloomberg Associates. “Mayor Baraka and the City of Newark are again leading the way with a bold strategy to both fill empty storefronts and support local small businesses at the same time. This is a winning combination which other cities should look to as a model.”