Developers, public officials and other stakeholders gathered to mark the start of a 66-unit affordable housing development at 17-21 Halsey St. in Newark. — Courtesy: City of Newark
By Joshua Burd
A development team joined Newark city officials on Wednesday to mark the start of a long-awaited, 66-unit project that will bring affordable housing to the central business district.
Mayor Ras J. Baraka said the 16-story building, known as Kawaida Towers, will be the only downtown property that will be exclusively for low- and moderate-income residents. The project at 17-21 Halsey St. will also revitalize the site of a deteriorated city-owned building, while realizing a 50-year-old vision by a group of stakeholders that included the mayor’s father, the noted poet and activist Amiri Baraka Sr.
“On Halsey Street, where it is booming and jumping and things are happening, we’re going to build affordability right here to make sure that Newark residents and people who are not usually able to afford the development in this community will be able to have the opportunity to be in this neighborhood, to be in this city,” Baraka said. “So I’m extremely excited about that.”
The mayor on Wednesday highlighted the role of city officials and a development team that includes Omni America LLC, the designated redeveloper, along with minority co-developer Mid-Atlantic Alliance and The National Action Network. The building will honor the efforts of his father and other community activists who, in the early 1970s, sought to develop a project known as Kawaida Towers that would bring affordable housing to the city’s North Ward, he said, only to be derailed by opponents who “wanted to keep the city segregated and divided.”
City officials said the Halsey Street building will have studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments for families of all sizes. Plans also call for community space with ongoing training and cultural programs for residents, including technology education provided jointly by the National Action Network and Rutgers-Newark.
Additionally, the project will incorporate retail as well as permanent exhibition space.
Omni has a long track record of building affordable housing nationally and in Newark, according to a news release. Mid-Atlantic, meantime, includes two Newark natives and has completed projects that provide affordable homeownership opportunities in the city.