As redevelopment gains momentum in Newark, residents and business owners might rightly wonder whether any groups will be left out. Critics over the years have worried that the city might become “the next Brooklyn” – a hot commercial and residential market where longtime denizens are priced out.
While increased economic activity is undoubtedly positive, how can the individuals and entities driving that development protect the interests of all Newarkers? To get a sense for what the future might hold, NJBIZ sat down with two leaders at the forefront of the process: John Schreiber, the president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of Rutgers University in Newark. Rutgers and NJPAC both play active roles in reshaping the city’s economy and landscape and work together and with other institutions to ensure that all of Newark’s stakeholders share in the benefits of development.
“I think it’s a complicated picture,” Cantor said. “What does equitable growth really mean? It means you want the investment, you want the capital investment. You want the prospering of businesses in Newark. You want new real estate. You want new organizations, new cultural institutions to thrive – small, medium and large. We want all that, but we want that to be embedded within the cultural histories and new generations of Newarkers.”
In part, that means preventing the sort of displacement that often accompanies new development, she added. “You also want to preserve neighborhoods and cultural identities and legacies. But you want to push those forward, so they need to collaborate with the new generation companies that are in Newark Venture Partners or in Audible or in NJPAC or in Rutgers Newark or Newark Beth.”
The university and NJPAC both act as “anchor institutions” for the city. “It’s important to us to be an ‘attractor’ of citizens to Newark from around our area,” Schreiber explained. “But it’s as important for us to be active within the city of Newark through education, through 150 community engagement events that we do and through collaborations that we do with partners like Rutgers Newark and others.”
And the influence of anchors can extend beyond the city’s core. Cantor cited the Newark public library – its main branch is downtown on Washington Street, but it has a presence out in the neighborhoods. “We’re doing a collaboration between Rutgers Newark and NJPAC on jazz poetry, on the history of jazz poetry and the future of jazz poetry in Newark,” she said. “It’s going to be in all the libraries. It’s going to be in the schools, it’s going to be in senior centers. And it’ll be on the big stage in NJPAC and in the college classroom at Rutgers Newark.”
That dispersal is critical, Schreiber said, “so that the city writ large can feel a sense of engagement and integration.”