The Mulberry Commons Pedestrian Bridge will do more than just connect the Prudential Center/Mulberry Commons area to the Penn Station/Ironbound sections of Newark. It also will pave the way for even more commercial, retail and residential development in Newark’s Central Business District.
Potentially hundreds of millions of dollars more.
That was the sentiment of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka on Tuesday afternoon at the groundbreaking for the long-awaited pedestrian bridge.
The bridge, expected to cost approximately $110 million and take at least 18 months to complete, will help spur interest in the areas around it.
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Baraka pointed out the numerous parking lots around Mulberry Commons as opportunities for future investment — development that will bring more density and more walkability and help the city create a 24-hour nightlife.
“Exactly what we want and need,” he said.
Baraka said the city already has seen the impact of development in the area, pointing to the opening of the Prudential Center in 2007, saying it led to all the development that’s taking place in the downtown area that has made it possible for the city to get out of its deficit — and hire more police and firefighters.
“It’s been a godsend to us,” he said.
The pedestrian bridge can have the same impact, Baraka said.
“It changes the center of gravity from Broad and Market to this area of the city, where more arts and entertainment is taking place,” he said.
And it will connect patrons to restaurants that already exist in the Ironbound.
“I think this is a home run for us,” he said.
Murphy certainly agreed.
“(It’s) going to unleash an enormous amount of development,” he said, noting it will create a need for more restaurants, diners and retail shops.
“And that’s going to be hugely important to Newark for rateables, for jobs, for the economy,” he said.
Part of that development push will be at Newark Penn Station, which already is scheduled to get a facelift. Murphy said the area will be able to grow together.
“This is not only reconnecting here to there, it’s also connecting much more in a sort of 21st-century way, but while also respecting the legacy and heritage of Newark Penn,” he said.
And, while the Pru Center already is one of the most-visited venues in the country, building up the area around it will only lead to more visitors — and more big events.
Murphy pointed to the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this month — the third time in recent years the show has come to the Pru Center.
“The fact that they keep coming back to Newark is such a testament that this place works,” Murphy said. “This is going to bring people in from far beyond the city.”
Murphy and Baraka said the business development will spur social growth in the city, too.
“I think almost a bigger impact is going to be societally,” Murphy said. “Families that can’t traverse McCarter Highway will feel free and safe to do so.
“The backbone of society in Newark will be so strengthened. It’s already strong. This will take it to another level.”