Shaq, Booker unveil $7M Newark theater expansion project

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker (at podium) and basketball star Shaquille O’Neal (center, rear) announced plans to expand the Newark Screens movie theater yesterday

Shaquille O’Neal, the iconic basketball star, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker
announced a $7 million deal yesterday to expand the Newark Screens movie
theater by 20,000 square feet, part of an effort to revitalize the city’s struggling
Central Ward.

O’Neal, a Newark native and four-time National Basketball Association champion,
announced the deal before hundreds of screaming fans at the movie theater,
located at 360-394 Springfield Avenue in Newark.

The deal between New Brunswick, N.J.-based Boraie Development and O’Neal’s
development company Miami-based O’Neal Group, involves doubling the theater
from six to 12 screens. There will be stadium seating and 3-D screens. Goldman
Sachs Urban Investment Group helped finance the project, which is expected to
create 40 construction jobs and 20 permanent jobs in Newark.

The expansion is scheduled to break ground in June and will be completed by
early 2012.

“Today I am proud that one of ours, from the bricks, up from the streets, has
come back home,” Booker told the crowd.

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O’Neal grew up in the city’s Central Ward before moving with his military family
to Texas to finish high school and later star at Louisiana State University. He
entered the NBA as center for the Orlando Magic, won three championships with
the Los Angeles Lakers and a fourth with the Miami Heat and now plays for the
Boston Celtics.

Booker recalled first meeting O’Neal, after he got elected, at Maize restaurant,
where the sports legend pledged his support to help rebuild the city.

“I promise you if the mayor lets me and my partners, Boraie Development, help
build Newark, we will do it,” O’Neal told the screaming crowd, specifically noting
he would consider building a Wal-Mart.

Shaq formed the O’Neal Group in 2006 with COO Wayne Garnes, and the firm
has partnered with Boraie in several projects around the country. In 2008,
the companies announced a deal to develop a $90 million condominium on
the former site of Newark’s Science High School at 36-53 Rector Place.

Wasseem Boraie, vice president of Boraie Development, said the partners have a
lender that is interested in underwriting the deal for the condo, but the economic
slowdown made the environment a little more difficult to move ahead until the
market begins to pick up again. He noted that the partners are working on other
projects in several urban markets around New Jersey and in Miami, where O’Neal
played when he launched the firm.

“We focus on cities where we think Shaq has a high attachment value,” Boraie
told The Real Deal.