Teachers Village in Newark aims to be game-changer for education

The latest ribbon-cutting in Newark adds a lot more than just multifamily residences and retail to the downtown area: Teachers Village represents a step forward in education and helps establish the city as an example of how modern development can have a great social impact.

So said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka at the ceremonial ribbon-cutting Tuesday afternoon.

“Teachers Village is more than a real estate development; it is a pioneering initiative designed to provide housing for teachers, schools for our youth, and add shops and businesses that will create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, all of which will strengthen our economy,” Baraka told the audience.

“Teachers Village changes the face and shape of our downtown, creates educational opportunities that will impact generations to come, and revitalizes this portion of our downtown as a 24/7 neighborhood.

“By doing so, we are empowering our entire city and setting a national standard for the entire nation. ‘Wherever America’s cities are going, Newark will get there first,’ Ken Gibson said. Today, we are defining that destination as a prosperous, successful and dynamic metropolis.”

Teachers Village stretches five blocks along Halsey Street and Maiden Lane.

The $150 million, six-building, 400,000-square-foot mixed-use development contains 204 moderately priced apartments. It is home to three charter schools, a day care center, open space, gardens and recreational areas for tenants and students.

But what sets it apart, officials said, is the commitment to education in the community. More than 70 percent of the apartments are leased to teachers and educators, creating a 24-hour living and learning environment.

Developer Ron Beit, CEO of the RBH Group, said the grand opening is another milestone moment in the redevelopment of Newark.

“It is exciting to see that the vision we had for this neighborhood, which just a few years ago was made up of surface parking lots and dilapidated buildings, has become a community centered around the educators of the children of this city,” he said.

“When we broke ground on Teachers Village, I said that we looked forward to the day when Newark students would be sitting in brand new schools, their teachers living in beautiful, moderately priced apartments, with open space, recreational amenities and retail establishments that make a community a neighborhood. That day has come.”

The design team included Richard Meier and Partners, and Princeton- and Philadelphia-based KSS Architects.

The project is part of the SoMa Redevelopment Project, which encompasses over 15 million square feet of development area within a 23-acre area south of Market Street.

Meier and Beit said the master plan strives to bring downtown Newark a mix of daytime and nighttime activity by encouraging rehabilitation and new residential and retail development. It calls for the emergence of new neighborhoods consisting of thousands of residential apartments, hotels and retail districts connected via vibrant, active streets, and development that leverages local mass transit, they said.

Teachers Village also contains 65,000 square feet of retail space. Tenants include Closet Savvy, Provident Bank, Bella Nail Lounge and Beauty Spa, Krauszer’s convenience and Tonnie’s Minis cupcakes and bakery. Several stores to open soon include medical services, restaurants and a fresh food marketplace, the developers said.

Teachers Village was developed with a combination of private and public investments led by Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group; Prudential Financial; Nicolas Berggruen, the founder and president of Berggruen Holdings and the Berggruen Institute; BRT Apartments Corp.; Frederick Iseman and CI Capital Partners; and Warren Lichtenstein and Steel Partners Ltd.

The project received state and federal New Market Tax Credits, as well as PILOT financing. Construction began on the first building in February 2012.

Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group Managing Director Margaret Anadu said the project represents how public-private financing can have great impact.

“We are thrilled to join the community in celebrating this truly catalytic and transformative project,” she said. “The product of an ambitious effort to respond to the neighborhood’s needs, Teachers Village was accomplished through unprecedented levels of public-private collaboration and serves as a model for community development.

“This visionary project will not only extend the ladder of opportunity to 2,000 children per year by providing best-in-class educational opportunities and creating hundreds of quality jobs, but will also pave the way for future investments, while contributing to the life and vibrancy of downtown Newark.”

Newark Community Economic Development Corp. CEO and President Aisha Glover said the project has helped transform the area.

“Teachers Village is the exact type of mixed-used project that we want to support in the city of Newark,” she said. “It has been critical to the revitalization of Halsey Street, serving as a key anchor and creating diverse residential and retail options that mirror the character of our city.”

Baraka and Beit were joined at the groundbreaker by Glover and Anadu, as well as a number of dignitaries including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, acting Deputy Mayor of Economic and Housing Development Carmelo Garcia, New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Melissa Orsen and Prudential Financial Vice President of Impact Investments Omeed Sathe.