Path to Newark’s transit hub rebirth

Linda Lindner//July 1, 2019

Path to Newark’s transit hub rebirth

Linda Lindner//July 1, 2019

By now, almost everyone who lives or does business in New Jersey knows the story (for better or for worse) of Newark’s Gateway Center, across the street from Newark Penn Station.

At the end of 2018 five investors, led by Onyx Equities LLC, announced they formed a joint venture and purchased the 5-acre, 1.6 million-square-foot tower complex known as Gateway One, Two and Four, and the concourse that provides a conduit between Newark Penn Station, Mulberry Street and the city’s increasingly bustling downtown district. This transaction represented the largest office deal in New Jersey’s history.

The Gateway complex architecture was conceived more than 50 years ago as a way for workers to conduct business at the office and return home without needing to set foot in the city of Newark. Much of the complex today is in serious need of renovations, activation and a new identity.

John Saraceno, managing principal and co-founder of Onyx Equities. – ONYX EQUITIES

Increased residential investment in Newark coupled with an uptick in corporate relocations to the city sparked the joint venture’s interest in the Gateway Center opportunity.

The partners that make-up the joint venture include Garrison Investment Group, Axonic Capital LLC, Taconic Capital Advisors, Prudential Financial and Onyx Equities LLC; and Prudential Financial said it will participate as a co-investment partner.

Onyx Equities serves as the operating arm, overseeing asset and property management, tenant relations, leasing and construction. Gateway Center has the potential to become a critical piece of the greater Mulberry Commons vision and transit hub narrative.

The partnership has aggregated the first majority interest in Gateway Center’s recent history. New ownership intends to implement a multi-million dollar modernization plan, predicated on creating a more vibrant, easy-to-navigate, welcoming concourse experience infused with varied and authentic dining options plus conveniences. Key to the vision will be the activation of the street level at the base of towers One and Four. The functions of the neighborhood and soul of the city are being woven into the exterior design features. The intent is to transform the unfortunate, isolating architecture into an innovative transit hub of the future.

The new ownership intends to reinvent the concourse as a destination, and spur significant demand from retailers and corporate office users who prioritize access to transit and a talented, diverse workforce.

In late May 2019, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and other dignitaries and officials cut the ribbon to open Mulberry Commons, a $10 million private/public development project in Newark’s downtown, on Mulberry Street between Lafayette Street and Edison Place, opposite Prudential Center, in downtown Newark.
Mulberry Commons is a milestone in Newark’s economic development, creating a new center of gravity in the city’s growing downtown and unlocking the long-ignored development potential of Newark’s Penn Station, one of the nation’s busiest rail hubs. It will create housing, a shopping area, and a public park, while providing a walkway from Newark Penn Station to Prudential Center.
“Mulberry Commons is more than a park and a construction project for our downtown. It is a defining development for our entire city. It will be the direct link between Penn Station and our premier entertainment facility, Prudential Center, providing these visitors with a world-class entrance to our world-class city.
Mulberry Commons will also create jobs, career and entrepreneurship opportunities, and housing in our downtown. It will energize this entire area, and in doing so, empower and strengthen our entire city. This is a transformative moment for Newark, and I commend everyone who made this day possible,” Baraka said.
The Mulberry Commons development will open a vast area of undeveloped land to residential and office development. The district is further bolstered by the world-wide marketability of Prudential Center, the highly regarded sports and entertainment venue; hosting more than 175 concerts, family shows, special events and sporting events annually and home to the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards and the GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center.

“We want to create a live-work balance that complements Newark’s sense of community and take advantage of our proximity to mass transit,” said John Saraceno, managing principal and co-founder of Onyx Equities.

Between 60,000 and 100,000 people cross the 1,400-linear-foot concourse at Gateway Center each week, for work, school or entertainment. They arrive by Amtrak, New Jersey Transit or PATH. Concourse users include Gateway employees, neighboring building employees, visiting clientele, Prudential Center spectators, as well as students from New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers University-Newark, Essex County College and Seton Hall Law School.

Gateway Center, Newark. – ONYX EQUITIES

So many amenities are within a short walk of Gateway — the Prudential Center arena, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the city’s historic Ironbound section, plus the beautiful Mulberry Commons Park. Headquarters for Audible, Panasonic and Prudential are nearby as well. Residential deliveries throughout the city cannot keep up with demand for those looking to relocate to Newark. There is a palpable sense of community and pride about the place. Significant investment and talented people are all taking part in the evolution of the city. Four hundred not-for-profit organizations have projects underway with the sole mission of bettering the city— they all see Newark’s potential and want to elevate it to one of the best cities in the United States. New Jersey needs to have Newark on the list of Great Cities nationally.

One of the more challenging aspects of the Gateway redesign is to create a casual, collaborative area to serve as a comfortable place to recharge. In addition to infusing the concourse with daily conveniences, the challenge is to create an experience where beauty, practicality and inspiration can simultaneously take place.

Newark’s revitalization is a massive, multi-level endeavor that has been taking place for decades. The Amazon HQ2 process catapulted Newark to the national radar in terms of its business-friendliness and talent pool. Newark’s shortlisted status, referred to as “The Amazon Effect” began to turn corporate relocation discussions toward Brick City as a viable option for the workforce needs of the next 15 to 20 years.

“Newark is now positioned to become the Northeast Corridor’s greatest amenity, and arguably New Jersey’s most important center of commerce, talent and connectivity,” Saraceno said.

“The Gateway partnership expects to attract tenants from within and around New Jersey because it is a cost-effective and commuting alternative to New York. Once the wave of people start to flow in — they won’t be stopped. Newark is more convenient than NYC and we have everything right here — authentic food, entertainment original culture and a sports arena. We’re a six minute train ride to Newark Airport. A 20 minute PATH ride to Manhattan. There are beautiful apartment options.”

One major differentiator at Gateway is its 10 gigabit fiber connectivity option. Powered by Newark Fiber, this 25 mile long network of fiber is 10-times faster than traditional fiber networks at t 1/10th the cost. Hook up at Gateway is instant because new ownership has invested in connecting the sub-street level Newark Fiber network with the Towers. Two Gateway was the first Tower to be connected under prior ownership. Ownership’s speculative street-to-building connection is significant because it eliminates the traditional 30- to 60-day installation delays and hefty hookup fees. The experience of 1 gigabit connectivity itself far surpasses traditional office connectivity. Ten gigabit connectivity opens up a world of business activities that can’t otherwise take place. No other East Coast city can offer this.

“At times, Gateway’s redevelopment is an intimidating undertaking. It’s also awesome,” said Saraceno who is electrified to be part of those making Newark shine.

Onyx Equities announced it will move its capital markets, asset management and construction divisions to One Gateway Center in July.

“Newark’s corporate anchors have been here for years now, drawn by 10-gigabit fiber infrastructure, unmatched young talent, venture capital, residential investment, unparalleled transportation options and downtown walkability for both residents and commuters,” Saraceno stated.

The Gateway renovation vision takes into account the needs of the workforce over the next 15 to 10 years, solving for current tenant needs for food options, the opportunity to welcome Penn Station arrivals to New Jersey’s busiest train station, and the activation of the street level in keeping with modern urban planning principles.