The site of a deteriorating high-rise for low-income residents in Newark's Central Ward is being redeveloped into state-of-the-art public housing.
Residents recently moved into Baxter Park South, the first phase of this project, at the foot of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The two modern buildings contain a combined 90 housing units. On the ground floor is 3,000 square feet of retail space, which has yet to be occupied.
The new structures were designed by Newark native and NJIT graduate Greg Comito, of Comito Associates. It is one of three projects planned to transform the landscape of the neighborhood, which could eventually contain 400 more housing units, a supermarket, additional retail and possibly a charter school, Comito said.
"We've done quite a bit of public housing in Newark and we're very proud of it," he said. "It's important to make these places more liveable, to give them an identity. This is a key piece of urban property, close to three colleges, a hospital and the train station. We're starting to see a transformation there. I hope it's a catalyst for what happens in the neighborhood."
The two buildings feature green components such as solar panels, energy-efficient construction and appliances, recycled materials, and water-saving fixtures. Each contains a computer lab, multipurpose room, closed-circuit security and off-street parking.
Baxter Park South was funded with a mixture of private and public financing, including stimulus money won from a green grant competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Newark Housing Authority partnered on the project with Michaels Development Co., in conjunction with the Claremont Construction Group.
"The housing authority encouraged us to do more than just build public housing," Comito said. "They pushed us to be creative and make an important building. You're only as good as your clients; the Newark Housing Authority is among the best we have worked with."