Ronald Andrews, a 50-something Newarker, flashed back to the 1960s when he set foot in the new Hahne Building during its official opening last week.
Andrews, the head of human resources for Prudential Financial’s domestic businesses, remembered holding his mother’s hand as he walked through the many shops at the Hahne site decades ago.
“To come to downtown Newark was always a huge event,” he said. “My mother and my brother and I, we would always go to Hahne because right next door was the Griffith Piano shop. I would always love to go there because I wanted to learn to play piano.”
The Hahne Building maintains a cultural significance for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and others, too. It is a testament to a rich cultural past, a monument to the many scars of the city and a promise of a brighter future.
That future started last Monday, when Baraka led the official opening of the Hahne Building. Prudential Financial, L M Development and Goldman Sachs Group partnered with Citi Community Capital to make the restoration happen.
“This is the first time we get to have a public-private partnership of this magnitude in the city of Newark that is going to change the footprint of this city,” Baraka said.
The lower floors of the building are set aside for private retail and arts.
Rutgers University-Newark currently operates an arts and cultural center in the building. Chef Marcus Samuelsson plans to open a restaurant on the Halsey Street side. And over 75,000 square feet have been designated for retail space. The Hahne building also will hold a Whole Foods, the first in Newark.
Express Newark, an arts incubator by Rutgers-Newark, will include classrooms, a 3-D printing studio and galleries.
The Hahne Building has been renovated as a multiuse facility, and will include 160 new apartments — 64 set aside for affordable housing.
And the impact is much greater than just the numbers.
Andrews said, “It’s almost like the phoenix rising again from the ashes.”
Liz Del Tufo, president of the Newark Preservation & Landmarks Committee, said she hopes it will help bring back the vibrancy the city had in the early ’60s.
“After Christmas, my mother would take her granddaughter, my daughter, to buy a Christmas decoration because they would be on sale … we had a really nice collection of very special Christmas decorations from Hahne,” she said.
But despite many very fond memories of Hahne, Newarkers also recall a time when the building saw citywide turmoil.
For Del Tufo and Andrews, the years leading up the closing of the building coincided with a rise in crime, a desertion of the city and the infamous 1967 riots.
“When (Hahne) shut down, you almost felt like Newark was done,” Andrews said.
Despite the challenges, Newarkers did not give up, and, according to Del Tufo, her organization began to advocate for the preservation of the Hahne Building almost 30 years ago, which helped lead to the redevelopment of the building.
Lata Reddy, vice president of corporate social responsibility for Prudential Financial, said the building is another example of the company’s longstanding commitment to the city.
“Through our investments, which total almost $675 million and can be seen across the city, we are dedicated to helping improve Newark’s physical environment as well as providing solutions that advance the upward mobility of the city’s residents,” she said.
Former Newark Mayor and current U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) thanked Newarkers and Baraka for their constant involvement throughout the effort.
“It was generations of Newarkers and Newark-loyal people, like leaders of Prudential, that are a part of the incredible movement that is going on in Newark right now,” Booker said.
Ron Moelis, CEO and co-founder of L M Development Partners, said he was humbled to be able to be a part of the reopening of the Hahne Building.
“It was not only a retail space, but a true place for the community and life well-lived,” he said. “This city is on the brink of something extraordinary … and I am pleased to be a part of it.”
According to a news release, renovations of the building totaled $174 million.