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Steel, hope goes up in Newark as Panasonic project moves forward

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Some good news for Newark: Panasonic Corp.’s much-discussed North American headquarters project finally started construction, with the first pieces of steel going up Monday afternoon, according to a report in The Star-Ledger.

As an aside: What is with that headline? “It’s electric?”)

The project got loads of attention — plenty of it negative — when it was approved for more than $100 million in tax credits under the Urban Transit Hub tax credit program. That sparked a lawsuit, eventually withdrawn, from Panasonic’s current landlord — and the controversial program made headlines again when Prudential Financial was approved for $250 million in incentives to build a new tower downtown.

It didn’t look like this project would ever come to fruition after so much battling between landlord and soon-to-be-ex-tenant. But the fact that Newark is getting such large-scale office development is a big positive for the city. Critics will point out that it’s a very expensive way to keep a tenant — and they’re right — but it wasn’t long ago that Newark was known more for stolen cars than stealing tenants from other cities, and putting more employees downtown will sell lunches, lure retailers and move tickets at the other fancy catalyst for downtown redevelopment.

It’s costly to keep Panasonic here by giving up $100 million in taxes. It’s a lot more costly to replace it altogether if it moves to California. Seeing the steel go up is a great sign for Newark’s rebuilding — almost as uplifting as watching your mayor rescue a neighbor from a burning building.

I’m even more irreverent on Twitter @joe_arney. 

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