City again seek­ing state down­town de­vel­op­ment dis­trict des­ig­na­tion

Newark Post - - Local News - By JOSH SHANNON jshan­non@ches­

The city of Ne­wark is again gear­ing up to seek a share of the state’s Down­town De­vel­op­ment Grant Pro­gram.

The pro­gram, ap­proved in 2014 and now in its sec­ond round of ap­pli­ca­tions, al­lows mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to carve out “down­town districts” for re­vi­tal­iza­tion.

In districts se­lected for the pro­gram, pri­vate en­ti­ties will be able to re­ceive grants to off­set up to 20 per­cent of cap­i­tal costs for build­ing or re­de­vel­op­ing prop­er­ties in the dis­trict. Gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties them­selves are not el­i­gi­ble for fund­ing.

Passed over in the ini­tial round of the pro­gram last year, Ne­wark has re­vised the bound­aries of its dis­trict to in­clude parts of Cleve­land Av­enue and Col­lege Square in ad­di­tion to Main Street. All are ar­eas ripe for re­de­vel­op­ment, said Michael Fort­ner, de­vel­op­ment su­per­vi­sor for the city.

Last year’s long-shot bid roughly fol­lowed the bound­aries of the Down­town Ne­wark Part­ner­ship but largely fo­cused on Ge­orge Read Vil­lage and the area around Cen­ter, New and Choate streets.

“It’s broader now,” Fort­ner said.

The city’s ap­pli­ca­tion, which needs to be ap­proved by city coun­cil, con­sists of roughly 220 acres en­com­pass­ing Ge­orge Read Vil­lage, Col­lege Square and most of Main Street. It also in­cludes the por­tion of Cleve­land Av­enue be­tween North Col­lege Av­enue and North Chapel Street, as well as North Street, Prospect Av­enue, Ker­shaw Street and Wil­bur Street.

The city has long sought to in­crease the amount of owner-oc­cu­pied hous­ing and non-stu­dent rental hous­ing down­town, and Fort­ner sees Ge­orge Read Vil­lage and the eastern-most por­tion of Main Street as a suit­able place to en­cour­age such de­vel­op­ment.

In ad­di­tion, he added, prop­erty own­ers could com­bine the grant fund­ing with other in­cen­tives, such as fed­eral low-in­come tax cred­its, to re­de­velop prop­er­ties as mixe­duse struc­tures fea­tur­ing af­ford­able hous­ing.

Fort­ner noted that the re­cent rental hous­ing needs as­sess­ment found a “se­vere short­age” of af­ford­able rental homes in the city. The Ne­wark Hous­ing Au­thor­ity has a wait­ing list of 1,300, and the wait time for se­niors to get into Main Tow­ers is more than three years.

Per­haps the most ex­cit­ing por­tion of the dis­trict, city of­fi­cials say, is the strug­gling Col­lege Square.

“It’s a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for re­de­vel­op­ment,” Fort­ner said.

The 300,000-square-foot shop­ping cen­ter off Li­brary Av­enue has a high va­cancy rate and last year, its own­ers un­veiled a draft plan call­ing for ex­tend­ing Delaware Av­enue through the shop­ping cen­ter, adding pad sites along the road, re­con­fig­ur­ing the park­ing lot and at­tract­ing more “mid-box” ten­ants, like sports stores, pet stores or craft stores.

How­ever, no for­mal plans have sur­faced, and repre- sen­ta­tives of the prop­erty man­age­ment firm last month de­clined to pro­vide an up­date on the pro­posal to the Ne­wark Post.

Fort­ner said the city plan­ning depart­ment would like Col­lege Square to be re­de­vel­oped as a mixed-use area that in­cludes not only re­tail but also rental hous­ing geared to­ward young pro­fes­sion­als and se­niors. How­ever, he noted, owner Fusco En­ter­prises has not ex­pressed in­ter­est in in­clud­ing hous­ing.

City coun­cil will vote on the city’s grant pro­posal on May 23. Fort­ner said he ex­pects the state to an­nounce its se­lec­tions this sum­mer.

Dur­ing the first round of fund­ing, the state chose Wilm­ing­ton, Dover and Seaford to be el­i­gi­ble for the grants. So far, the state has dis­bursed a to­tal of nearly $10 mil­lion to 24 projects.


A map re­leased by the city shows the pro­posed bound­aries of the down­town de­vel­op­ment dis­trict.

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