Transformative property — with 2,500 units of multifamily, city square and numerous restaurants — could be coming to Ironbound

Sinai Equity Group, which closed on Iberia restaurant property Monday, has big plans for 5.2-acre space

Those wondering what possibly could replace the iconic Iberia Tavern & Restaurant in Newark — and the 5.2-acre lot it was on — may be in for a stunning surprise.

A transformative mixed-use property — one that aims to bring up to 2,500 units of multifamily housing, numerous Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants and a mini city square that will re-create those found in Europe — is one step away from filling that spot in the Ironbound, according to the attorney who represents the buyer of the property, Sinai Equity Group.

The 5.2-acre lot in Newark.

Calvin Souder, the founding partner of Newark-based Souder, Shabazz & Woolridge, said the new owners (which closed on the property Monday) gave a proposal for the site to the city late last year — and will go before the Newark planning and zoning board at a meeting in July.

“We hope to have approval within 60 days,” he said.

Newark officials, reached Wednesday afternoon, said they are “evaluating the proposal.”

If all goes to plan, work could begin on the site later this year, with a potential ribbon-cutting coming in the fall of 2024.

The property, at 80 Ferry St., runs from Ferry Street to Raymond Boulevard. Souder said the plans are to make use of every inch of it in a way that will help reshape and redefine the Ironbound — and Newark.

“I would call it a defining moment in the Newark renaissance,” Souder said.

The plans call for multiple buildings of up to 13 floors, plus a parking deck with enough spaces to handle residents and nonresidents.

The highlight will be the ground floor — which will feature enough retail and restaurant space to create the town-square feel, Souder said.

“We’re trying to make the first floor reminiscent of if you were in downtown Lisbon or downtown Rio, creating a restaurant-street lifestyle,” he said. “It’s going to be a square for folks to enjoy and pay significant homage to the cultural influence of the community.”

The desire to be authentic is so great that Souder said there already has been outreach to eateries in Europe and South America.

“There’s an active call out to restaurants in both Brazil and Portugal to see if they’d be willing to open up restaurants here,” he said. “We’re looking for authentic restaurants from the countries in which the Ironbound is mostly made up of.”

Souder said a goal could be to have one side of the square be all Portuguese and the other side be all Brazilian.

“There’s an interesting mix and vibe that can happen there,” he said.

The project would be the second major effort in Newark for the Brooklyn-based Sinai Equity Group. Last summer, it purchased the 500,000-square-foot IDT building (and a parking garage) for $49 million. It is in the process of turning that property into a four-tower mixed-use site.

When the Sinai Equity Group closed on the Iberia property Monday, in a deal valued at approximately $40 million, it marked the end to a nearly 50-year run of the iconic restaurant.

Ilda Loureiro originally purchased the property with her husband, Joao Loureiro, in 1974. Loureiro has been running the establishment with her business partner, Jorge Fernandes, since Joao Loureiro died in 2020. (Iberia closed its doors for good last Sunday.)

Gil Medina, an executive vice president at CBRE who brokered the deal on behalf of the Iberia owners, said the impact of the project — combined with the efforts at the former IDT site and the former Newark Bears Stadium — cannot be overstated. “The city is very strategically harmonizing the redevelopment of those three sites to support a walking city,” he said. “I think it’s going to be very exciting for Newark just generally, but it’s going to really help create a more vibrant central business district as well.“The Iberia site is such an important site because Ferry Street is already a vibrant corridor. The redevelopment of this site is going to really help accelerate it as a vibrant commercial district.”