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Newark official: $35M hotel's groundbreaking a sign of things to come

By , - Last modified: April 1, 2011 at 1:53 PM

City officials and the developer of the $35 million Courtyard by Marriott hotel that had a groundbreaking Wednesday say the project will act as a catalyst for further economic development in the city.

A rendering of the hotel. (Courtesy Marriott)

The hotel site, at Broad and Lafayette streets, is an ideal location because of its proximity to the Prudential Center and other nearby locations, as well as a large residential population, according to Rich Tucker, president and CEO of Tucker Development Corp., which has offices in Fort Lee and Highland Park, Ill.

“It’s got all the makings of something that, quite honestly, should have been there a while ago,” Tucker said of the project, which will include a 150-room hotel and 14,000 square feet of street-level retail shops.

Tucker said the building would be the “best hotel on the market.” The developer has worked with the Robert Finvarb Cos. on a similar Courtyard by Marriott in Washington, D.C.

Tucker said the overall state of the construction market was irrelevant when compared with the benefits of the site: “It’s not about the boom or the bust in construction, it’s really about the location, the market demand, regardless of where we are in the real estate or the construction market.”

The hotel should contribute to increased activity in the city, according to Stefan Pryor, Newark’s deputy mayor for economic development.

“This project helps to create more of a 24/7 environment downtown, which is essential to business attraction and residential attraction downtown,” Pryor said, helping the city shed what he called an undeserved reputation as a “post-business-hours tumbleweed town.”

The retail component is expected to include both restaurants and other retailers.

“The notion of enhancing street life is central to this project, and the retail uses will create a vibrancy on the street edge,” Pryor said.

Pryor said the project improves the area’s ability to attract investment.

“In the midst of this economic climate and the midst of this hospitality industry downturn in particular, it’s delightfully surprising that a city would host a hotel project,” Pryor said.

Pryor said the hotel entrance on Broad Street will serve as “the arena district’s front door.” The arena parking deck also will serve the hotel, he said.

Arena operator Jeffrey Vanderbeek said the announcement keeps the momentum of hosting the NCAA Eastern Regionals going.

“It’s the first hotel being built in 40 years, and I think that’s pretty telling,” said Vanderbeek, chairman of the New Jersey Devils. The Prudential Center is a partner in the project.

Vanderbeek says progress in the city is generating enthusiasm from investors. “Newark is getting to the point where people are thinking they have to get in” or they will miss on value, he said.

He said the hotel also will increase the credibility of the arena’s bids for hosting NHL all-star games and NCAA hockey’s Frozen Four championships. He also predicted visiting professional teams will stay at the hotel

Pryor credited Tucker with working with the city to overcome barriers.

The city expects 25 projects to be built this year, representing 1.25 million square feet, 1,500 construction jobs and 1,200 permanent jobs, Pryor said. “As a result, we’re calling this our groundbreaking year in Newark,” he said.

The hotel is set to open by the end of 2012.

E-mail Andrew Kitchenman at akitchenman@njbiz.com

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