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Retailers, arena lend appeal to downtown residences

The RockPlaza development wasn't without risks, but got a boost from new retail, says Marc Berson.-(AARON HOUSTON)

For the developers of RockPlaza Lofts, a plan to build upscale apartments on a longtime commercial stretch of Market Street was no risk-free proposition. But its success may have come down to finding retail that piqued the curiosity of residents and visitors alike.

“Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has a kind of mystique about it that created a lot of interest and believability in the immediate area,” said developer Marc Berson, referring to the 6,000-square-foot restaurant that opened last June, about five months before the opening of 22 rental units above it. Another handful have opened there since.

Berson, whose Fidelco Realty Group is partnering with the Hanini Group to build RockPlaza Lofts, said strong retail anchors have been early keys to developing the 80-unit project. And developers around Newark hope to replicate the model on a much larger scale: City officials say its pipeline of housing projects include more than 300,000 square feet of retail space, complementing some 3,000 residential units.

Berson said the nearby Prudential Center has been the obvious catalyst for the neighborhood around RockPlaza lofts. But with another 48 units still under construction at the eight-building project, he said the group soon plans to unveil a well-known convenience store tenant, along with two national operators “with a food variety that’s not duplicated on the block or in the immediate area.”

“All of a sudden, it makes it a nicer place to live,” Berson said.

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On Twitter: @joshburdnj

Joshua Burd

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