Newark launches program to activate vacant retail space in downtown commercial district

Newark Retail Reactivation Initiative, led by Invest Newark, will make low- to no-cost financial assistance available in effort to activate vacant storefronts


The city of Newark is partnering with Invest Newark, the city’s leading economic development corporation, on a program that aims to help business and not-for-profit organizations locate in Newark’s burgeoning downtown core, Mayor Ras Baraka announced.

The program, known as the Newark Retail Reactivation Initiative, aims to support businesses that are looking to bring more retail, cultural and food experiences to downtown, improve aesthetics, safety and quality of life in the heart of the city, and turn long-vacant storefronts into amenities for Newark residents, workers and students.

The city and Invest Newark will make low- to no-cost financial assistance available to businesses looking to locate in the focus area. Business operators will be eligible for up to $650,000 in support, depending on the square footage of the storefront. Funds can be used for exterior and interior improvements of the vacant space, or the purchase of furniture, fixtures and equipment. This program was developed in collaboration with Bloomberg Associates, the pro bono consulting arm of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which works with cities and mayors around the world.

The program will focus on the area bordered by Broad Street and Washington Street between Washington Place and William Street.

Baraka said he feels the impact of the program could be huge.

“The Newark Retail Reactivation Initiative will revitalize and accelerate the influx of entrepreneurial businesses making use of downtown vacant storefronts,” he said. “Newark has become a magnet for entrepreneurs and small retail businesses. This program will make downtown even more attractive as a destination, a place for residents and visitors to enjoy. It is an important step in our strategy to make downtown a 24/7, exciting, walkable area where people can live, work and play.”

Invest Newark CEO Marcus Randolph agreed.

“The many residents and visitors already eating and shopping in the heart of Newark and the growing number of people coming downtown to enjoy festivals, concerts and other outdoor events has set the stage for an initiative such as this,” he said. “It is also a great complement to Audible’s Business Attraction Program that was recently announced.

“We hope businesses and organizations interested in locating in the focus area will utilize the different types of support being offered by local entities such as the Newark Alliance, as well as from statewide resources like the Small Business Improvement Grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.”

On Aug. 1, Audible announced it is giving $250,000 grants to help bring (or build) startups in Newark.

Evan Weiss, CEO of the Newark Alliance, said the effort announced this week will be of great help, too.

“We’re excited to work with Mayor Baraka and our partners in developing a flexible but focused program to support entrepreneurs and fill the remaining storefront gaps along key downtown corridors like Halsey Street,” he said.

This initiative is part of an ongoing effort to create more jobs, enhance public safety, beautify Newark and increase the number of businesses and organizations serving Newark residents and visitors alike.