Panelists rip condition of Newark Penn Station: ‘City deserves better’

Included among an otherwise upbeat opinion of Newark’s real estate prospects for the future was a clear request for what needs an urgent upgrade: Newark Penn Station.

“That cannot be the entry into the city,” Onyx Equities co-founder and managing partner John Saraceno said. “The city deserves better. It’s time to be responsible. It’s time to fix it and it’s time to address it and make it a place that’s welcoming.”

Saraceno, speaking at the Newark Regional Business Partnership’s annual Real Estate Market Forecast for the city, said the state of the station has become an embarrassment.

“We deserve better than that, the state deserves better than that, Newark deserves better than that,” he said.

Saraceno does have more reason than most to see the station improved.

Onyx led a group of investors that purchased One, Two and Four Gateway Center at the close of 2018. And its plans in 2019 include an overhaul of the promenades of Newark’s top office complex. Upgrading Penn Station would help that endeavor.

But don’t think this was strictly a self-serving request.

Others were quick to join the cry. And no one went to bat for the station as it stands now.

Richard Dunn, senior vice president of Paramount Assets, wondered how much of a draw the city would receive if the station was upgraded as others around the country have been.

“I totally agree with the sentiment,” he told the crowd. “I think that a world-class train station would go a long way in attracting new business and new residents.

“I was just in Washington, D.C., for the (New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s Walk to Washington train trip) and Union Station is absolutely incredible. If we had something like Union Station here in Newark, I think that would open the doors for a lot more possibilities for this great city.”

The upgrade could start with food.

Heidi Learner, chief economist at Savills Studley, asked during her always-complete economic breakdown of the state and Newark: When was the last time anyone in the room had had a meal there? And she noted that was commonplace at Grand Central Station.

Saraceno noted the famed New York restaurant Cipriani Dolci, which offers balcony views of Grand Central Station’s concourse.

“We don’t need Cipriani’s,” he said. “We just need a place that’s welcoming and comfortable.

“We need something better than what we have.”

And Newark needs it now.

So said Peter Bronsnick, an executive vice president at SJP Properties.

“I agree 100 percent,” he said. “There are a lot of priorities, but I really think that it needs to become priority one and, quite candidly, everything else is a waste of time unless we address it.”

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