Stakeholders on Wednesday unveiled new designs for the planned mixed-use park around Newark’s Prudential Center, now known as Mulberry Commons. — Courtesy: Edison Properties
By Joshua Burd
Public officials and business leaders gathered Wednesday to unveil new details about plans to transform the surface lots around the Prudential Center into a dynamic, mixed-use park area that connects Newark Penn Station to the city’s downtown and Ironbound neighborhoods.
At a news conference at the arena, officials said the long-awaited plan commonly known as Triangle Park will now be known as Mulberry Commons. They touted a more than $100 million, 22-acre plan that will create new open space and a high-profile pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks that run along McCarter Highway, along with scores of retailers, restaurants and commercial spaces.
The targeted completion date for the park is late summer 2018, officials said Wednesday, although local leaders and developers must continue with public hearings on the exact design of the process before moving forward. The architectural firm Sage & Coombe will lead the design efforts for six of the project’s 22 acres, while Edison Properties and J&L Parking Corp. will oversee development of the commercial and residential component of the lots they now own.
“The collaboration between the multiple stakeholders that have come together for this endeavor symbolizes a new era for Newark,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a prepared statement. “Mulberry Commons will allow us to put financial power behind our commitment to Newark’s neighborhoods and communities, and will inspire and empower Newarkers for decades to come.”
The plans are decades in the making and have stalled during past administrations, but stakeholders announced a breakthrough last year. Speakers on Wednesday reiterated that breakthrough, noting the plan has been one of Baraka’s priorities since he took office in 2014, leading to negotiations that earned the support of Edison Properties.
Edison Chairman Jerry Gottesman, the iconic Newark real estate executive who has envisioned such a park since he began to operate in the city decades ago, was on hand Wednesday. Edison Properties owns the majority of the acreage that sits within the Mulberry Commons site and is also spearheading the adaptive reuse of a warehouse along McCarter Highway.
“The Mulberry Commons project is the culmination of a planning process that began in 2005. Under Mayor Baraka’s leadership, the City, the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation and private developers are executing the vision for the park, a pedestrian bridge linking the Ironbound and downtown, as well as the redevelopment of the parcels adjacent to the Prudential Center,” Gottesman said. “At Edison Properties, we’re excited to continue working with the Mayor’s office and the City to move our new ‘Ironside Newark’ office and retail project forward to further the successful transformation of downtown Newark.”
The park will be bordered by Mulberry Street, Lafayette Street, McCarter Highway and Edison Place.
In addition to the property owners, Wednesday’s event included a host of speakers and dignitaries from Newark Community Economic Development Corp., the Newark Downtown District and the Prudential Center. Hugh Weber, president of the Prudential Center and the New Jersey Devils, said that, as the arena prepares to celebrate its 10-year anniversary this fall, “we could not be more proud to be a part of the dramatic change that continues to take place around us.”