RockPlaza opens as Newark sees biggest boom since 1950s

Loft redevelopment latest in city's rebounding property market

From left: RockPlaza Lofts rendering and 3-bedroom duplex living area
From left: RockPlaza Lofts rendering and 3-bedroom duplex living area

Fidelco Realty Group and the Hanini Group on Thursday unveiled the second phase of RockPlaza Lofts, a $38 million redevelopment project that will bring a total of 78 new apartments and several new restaurants to the city’s downtown area.

The loft-style apartments introduced today are located at the historic Madison Building, a six-story mixed-use property at 216-218 Market Street, and includes 48 loft-style apartments and ground-floor retail space. Retail tenants in the property include the first Newark location for Chipotle Mexican Grill, which is scheduled to open in late June.

Marc Berson, chairman of Fidelco, credited partnerships with local government and lenders to spur development in new markets like Newark, a city that does not yet command the same rents as wealthier submarkets in Manhattan.

“Newark does not yet for products like this warrant the same price you’re going to pay in New York , but we’re delivering the same product,” he said at the groundbreaking.

Indeed, RockPlaza Lofts is part of a development boom in Newark, the biggest since the 1950s. Long beleaguered by blight, the city is now home to more than a third of New Jersey’s economic development.

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Last September, the city opened its first new office tower in two decades and launched the first two buildings of RBH Group’s Teachers Village, a $150 million housing, retail and education complex.

Financing for RockPlaza was put together with a group of lenders, including Citi Community Capital and Denver-based Greenline Community Ventures. The project also benefitted from a grant from the state Economic Development Authority and federal New Market Tax Credits, a program designed to spur development in distressed communities.

The developers completed a full restoration of the Madison, which was originally built in 1890 and is located in the historic Four Corners section of downtown Newark. The apartments include a mix of studios, one and two-bedroom apartments with hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, Rooftop Terrace, individual washer/dryers and an on-site gym.

The first phase of RockPlaza Lofts was completed in 2011, and included 3,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space and eight market-rate loft-style apartments at the Bowers Building, at 191 Market Street. Retail space at that site includes Rita’s Italian Ice, the main office of Newark’s Downtown District and a Newark Police Department substation.

At the end of 2012 the second phase of the project opened at The Columbian, which includes 22 loft style apartments and 5,000 square feet of ground floor and lower level retail, located next to the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. That historic building includes the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurant, which signed a 15-year lease for the space. (Additional reporting by Tom DiChristopher)