By late summer or early fall, Prudential Financial plans to start vertical construction of its new 20-story office tower in downtown Newark. In the meantime, the insurance giant is working to maximize the building's impact at the ground level.
Company executives today detailed plans for integrating the project into the surrounding blocks, which include corridors like Halsey and New streets that connect Broad Street to the city's University Heights section. Richard Hummers, Prudential's vice president for financial management, said that strategy includes "wrapping" a 55-foot-tall parking garage with retail and art displays in order to drive pedestrian traffic around it.
But the development team also is preserving and renovating some of the retail spaces at the southern end of the project site, despite razing many of the other historic storefronts that for decades stood west of Military Park. The company aims to have a collection of retailers that cater to both employees and neighborhood residents, Hummers said.
"It's an interesting set of challenges," he said during a forum hosted by the Newark Regional Business Partnership. "There's vacant space along lots of different avenues right now in Newark, but this is new exciting space, and frankly, the proximity to the new tower, we think, is going to be a very exciting proposition for a number of retailers."
The project, which is being developed by SJP Properties, is being financed with the help of a $211 million tax credit under the state's Urban Transit Hub program.
Demolition and excavation is well under way at the project site, which includes two blocks north of Raymond Boulevard. By late next year, Prudential aims to open the new 740,000-square-foot glass tower to house hundreds of employees currently at other buildings in the city, along with at least 400 new employees.
"It's an ambitious schedule — we realize that," Hummers said. "We're doing everything we can to try to make it, but at this point, that's the schedule we're marching toward."
The $444 million project is moving quickly despite an unresolved lawsuit stemming from the company's plan to vacate nearly 1 million square feet of space at three of the city's Gateway buildings, where its leases expire next year. Prudential spokesman Bob DeFillippo said today that the litigation is still open, but declined to comment further.
But the company found a highly receptive audience today in about 100 local professionals and civic leaders, who got a virtual street-by-street tour of the site through a series of renderings. The presentation focused on the project's first two phases, which include the tower, 50,000 square feet of retail and the 1,400-space parking structure; a third phase gives Prudential the option to build a second tower along the southern edge of the site.
The company also is part of a group that's helping fund and manage a revitalization of Military Park, along with the city and nonprofit groups. The project broke ground last week.
"We're taking an all-in look and really trying to be good neighbors and good partners," said Lata Reddy, vice president for corporate strategy. "It's all about collaboration for us."