The stories of two major Urban Transit Hub incentives in Newark continue to take wildly different paths.
Earlier this month, at the site of the Panasonic tower, workers raised the first pieces of steel on what will be the consumer electronics giant’s new headquarters, which is being developed thanks to a $102 million tax credit under the Economic Development Authority-administered program. The project tested the boundaries of Urban Transit Hub, as critics argued it was not intended to retain companies looking to subsidize new headquarters buildings, but overcame its legal challenges and is moving forward.
But the formal protest filed over Prudential Financial’s project indicates this project, and the sizable award in a dwindling pot of money, will be drawn out longer than a PBS pledge drive. Prudential’s Gateway landlords last week filed a formal protest seeking to throw out the award on the basis that the project fails the EDA’s net benefits test.
Key to the landlords’ argument is the presumption that extensive infrastructure work will need to be performed by the city in conjunction with this project — a charge rejected by the city, which expects only a minimal impact on Newark services. That might have been true if this transit hub project were taking advantage of Newark’s status as a transit hub, but the company wants to build a sizable parking garage as part of the development, which will put hundreds more rush-hour drivers on Broad Street each morning. Add in hundreds of new jobs at the Panasonic tower and thousands of people attending events at Prudential Center on event nights, and you are potentially looking at a city very much in need of more efficient roadways.
Is that enough to justify rejecting the award? No, but the EDA prides itself on the thoroughness of its net benefits testing before granting incentives. We hope the agency proves it weighed the wider impact on Newark when it reconsiders the award next month.