True to Newark: Leasing agent of Ironside project hopes to bring flavor of city to its restaurant options

Jason Pierson of Pierson Commercial. – Pierson Commercial

Jason Pierson knows retail leasing in urban areas up and down the state.

More importantly, he knows Newark.

So, when Pierson Commercial was named by owner Edison Properties earlier this month as the retail leasing broker for Ironside Newark — the soon-to-be completely refurbished warehouse that will anchor the city’s latest park, Mulberry Commons — he knew exactly the type of restaurant he hopes will anchor the 75,000 square feet of retail that will fill the bottom floors below the office space.

A restaurant from the Ironbound.

“We want to do something that showcases Newark,” Pierson said. “We’re not just looking for national brands. We also want great local operators. And we would love to have a restaurant from the Ironbound be a part of the project.

“The Ironbound is such a big part of the Newark experience. And I know from experience that you don’t always have time to go there, park, eat, then go to the Prudential Center for an event.

“Portuguese restaurants are what Newark is known for. If we can get one of them to bring a location here, I think it can do extremely well.”

Pierson, whose firm has leased retail in Atlantic City, New Brunswick, Hoboken and numerous spots in Newark, among other areas, said he views Ironside as a unique opportunity.

Century-old warehouse properties that anchor a park and are next to one of the leading entertainment venues in the country do not come around very often, he said.

That hasn’t been lost on potential tenants.

Pierson, who is leasing the project along with associate Ryan Starkman, said the property is drawing a lot of interest in the few weeks it has been on the market.

“We’ve had quite bit of showings already,” he said. “And we hear the same thing from everybody: ‘This is a one-of-kind project, this is one of the top projects in the state, this is eclectic and unique.’

“People with a vision understand what this is going to be. I haven’t had anyone go through the building that hasn’t been impressed with it.”

Pierson said the project not only is looking for restaurants and cafes, but entertainment venues.

“Newark needs more places where people can go at night in parties and have fun,” he said.

He also mentioned a fitness operator or a higher-end clothing establishment.

“If we could get someone who could provide some sort of clothing and amenities for employees in the area, that would be great,” he said. “We’d love to get a custom shirt or suit maker, something that caters to a higher-end environment that’s more on the trendy side.”

While Pierson said events at the Prudential Center will be a major draw, he also is aiming to find retailers that appeal to office workers and residents.

“There’s a lot of residential that is coming on line,” he said. “We think eventually there will be a population that can support day, night and weekends, including daytime workers.

“We think this is going to change the pattern of how people shop in Newark. It will provide more variety of them.”

And, since the building is still being renovated, Pierson said there is opportunity for unique spaces.

“We’ve being very particular with what we want, but very flexible in how we can lay out space for them,” he said. “We can create very cool spaces.

“Now is the opportunity to do, while we are doing construction. If there is a vision, we can do it now.”

Pierson will take his lead from Edison Properties, and said he is hopeful some tenants will be announced by the end summer/early fall with retailers being able to start interior work in the winter.

Edison Properties has hired JLL to handle the leading of the office component. ROI-NJ reported last fall that Mars Wrigley Confectionary will be moving its headquarters there. Edison Properties itself is also expected to take space.

Michael Sommer, executive vice president for development at Edison Properties, said interest is high for office, too.

“Plenty of CEOs I’m speaking to are intrigued about the possibilities in Newark,” he said. “Access to mass transportation is key for today’s businesses. And this city has that, while also being an alternative to paying for Manhattan, or even Jersey City, rents.”

Sommer sees the transformation of what was once the Newark Warehouse Co. Building as another milestone for the city.

“We’re glad to be part of this,” Sommer said. “All you have to do is walk or drive around Newark today, you’ll see everything good going on right now — with all the progress made each and every day here. There’s definitely a renewed vibrancy in the city.”

Brett Johnson contributed to this report.