Manhattan-based RBH Group, and a cast of luminaries that ranged from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, broke ground today on the long-awaited Teachers Village, a $149 million retail, educational and residential development in downtown Newark.
The Richard Meier-designed complex will provide rental housing for more than 200 Newark teachers, will house three local charter schools and a local daycare and include more than 70,000 square feet of retail space for a range of businesses, including destination restaurants, medical offices, local merchants and national chain stores.
“In the end, vital cities are those that don’t close at five or six o’clock on weekdays,” Christie, the Newark-born politician and former Newark-based U.S. Attorney, told the hundreds of attendees.
The groundbreaking comes days after the city topped off the Courtyard by Marriott, Newark’s first new hotel in 40 years, part of a wave of development that will include the relocation of Panasonic’s North American headquarters to Newark, resulting in a deal to build a $190 million office tower in downtown.
“You’re really seeing Newark turn a major corner in terms of development, Newark Mayor Cory Booker told The Real Deal. “Here we are in a down economy and what you’re seeing is Newark surging forward.”
The project was financed through a complex series of public and private investments that helped fill the gap of providing enough equity and debt to get major financial institutions to back the project after more than three years of negotiations.
RBH, led by managing member Ron Beit, is leading the development of the complex, with partners billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, BRT Realty Trust, Frederick Iseman and Steel Partners.
Goldman Sachs, which is one of the backers of PS 90 in Harlem, is backing the financing along with Prudential, TD Bank, New Jersey Community Capital and the Brick City Development Corp. Scott Singer, executive vice president of Singer & Bassuk, which arranged the financing, told The Real Deal that this was one of the most complicated public-private partnerships he has ever been involved in.
Beit said in an interview that he will relocate his offices to downtown Newark in three months, praised his various development partners, noting the difficult nature of putting the deal together.
“There was plenty of opportunity to turn away and no one ever did,” Beit told attendees.
Teachers Village, located on a four block site at Halsey Street, just steps away from the Prudential Center arena, will include three local schools: Great Oaks, Discovery Charter School and Team Academy, serving about 800 students from kindergarten through eighth grade and will also include the Chen School, a daycare center for 150 children. At least one retail lease has been signed, for a restaurant called Booker’s Diner, named after 19th century educator and civil rights leader Booker T. Washington.
Residential monthly rents will range from $700 for a studio to $1,400 for a two-bedroom apartment, and are being pre-marketed to Newark teachers.
“This is more than just a homecoming this is a dream come true,” Meier said.