Newark breaks ground on 245-apartment building downtown

A who's who of current and former officials including former Gov. Tom Kean and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno broke ground Monday on the city's first major market-rate residential building in more than five decades.

The 22-story One Theater Square building, across from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, is due to open in the summer of 2018. Officials called it another step in the renaissance of Newark's downtown.

It's a joint project between NJPAC and Dranoff Properties, with contributions from the city, the state, Prudential and Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank.

The building will feature 245 apartments, and about 10 percent will be affordable-housing units.

At Monday's groundbreaking, Kean said the more than decade-long project was the fulfillment of his dream for Newark, the state's largest city.

Also present was former Mayor Sharpe James, who's credited with being the driving force behind the building of NJPAC and Prudential Arena and being an early champion of the apartment building project.

Newark's downtown, for years marred by vacant lots and shuttered businesses, has undergone a transformation in recent years. Prudential, the city's longtime anchor, built a second tower, and Panasonic moved to the city from Secaucus three years ago.

Military Park, once a litter-filled eyesore, has been reimagined to more resemble New York's Bryant Park, and a Whole Foods is scheduled to open next year. New stores have opened near the new Prudential building.

Mayor Ras Baraka called the project "the first step of many steps to make Newark the place that we want it to be."