Shaq partnership to develop $90 million condo project in New Jersey

A partnership backed by basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal will develop a proposed $90 million luxury condominium in downtown Newark, following the city council’s approval of the deal today.

Boraie O’Neal Urban Development agreed to pay the city $2.7 million to acquire a half-acre site that previously housed Newark’s Science High School at 36-54 Rector Place. It plans to convert the property into a 25-story residential tower.

The project would be the first of several urban projects planned by the partnership, which includes the Miami-based O’Neal Group and New Brunswick-based Boraie Development.

“There hasn’t been new ground-up, market-rate housing in Newark in 40 years,” said Wasseem Boraie, vice president of Boraie Development. “We feel there is pent-up demand for Newark …  because of its transportation access to Manhattan.”

The property, called One River View at Rector, will include 152 market-rate condominium units, a 154-vehicle parking garage and 6,500 square feet of ground-floor retail. 

Newark officials said the deal to convert Science High School was originally conceived under former mayor Sharpe James, who was sentenced last week to 27 months in prison for real estate fraud. But city officials say they believe that the sale price was fair and that the deal will spur much-needed residential development in downtown.

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“In times like this, I think people are seeking value,” said Joseph Ritchie, chief executive of the Brick City Development Corp., which functions as Newark’s economic development arm. “In many places land prices are still inflated and sellers haven’t adjusted their expectations.  Developers that can get in today are the ones that are going to be successful three or four years down the road.”

Development at the landmarked site must still gain approval from the New Jersey Historic Trust and the city’s Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, which will likely delay closing until 2009. Boraie says he has backing from his company’s lenders for the project, however he declined to elaborate or say what asking prices will be for the condos. He said the units would be considered a strong value for the price.

The agreement calls for the developer to recruit local residents for jobs related to the project and to include unionized labor in construction work. Construction is expected to take 18-24 months.

The project is the latest of several new residential developments in Newark. In July, the first phase of Lincoln Park Village, a 300-unit loft and townhome project, was announced for the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District.

In June, a $6 million market-rate residential project, called the Colleoni Apartments, launched in Lincoln Park. The 29-unit building will offer one- and two-bedroom rental apartments ranging from $1,000 to $1,400 per month.