By Ron Beit's last count, Teachers Village required approvals and oversight from nearly two dozen different agencies, governing bodies and corporate boards.
So it was no surprise to find throngs of business leaders and public officials gathered in Newark today to mark the latest milestone in the $150 million redevelopment project: cutting the ribbon on the first two completed buildings after 18 months of construction.
"The journey was about process," Beit, lead developer and managing member of RBH Group, said in an interview. "We had 22 boards, and without their unanimous support, we would never have gotten here today. … For each board, there were challenges that were addressed and answered so that this project would be approvable."
The two buildings, which house three charter schools, a daycare center and 25,000 square feet of retail, are among eight that will span five blocks of Halsey Street, on sites that were largely parking lots and blighted buildings. It's a scale that Beit said "adds complication" when it comes to planning and entitlements.
That's not to mention the fact that the project was conceived and refined in during an economic downturn, he said. But a complex stack of public and private funding sources — including a $39.5 million Urban Transit Hub tax credit — helped bring the project to a groundbreaking last year in a ceremony that drew a similarly large crowd.
The group today included Gov. Chris Christie, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and executives from Prudential Financial and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, all of whom credit Beit's doggedness in moving the project along.
It was the second time in eight days that Christie visited Newark to hail a high-profile development project. Last week, he gathered with many of the same dignitaries to mark the opening of Panasonic's new North American headquarters, the city's first new office tower in 20 years.
Both projects have benefited greatly from the Urban Transit Hub program, and Beit has been among the most vocal developers to advocate for continuing the state's aggressive use of tax credits. He has said Teachers Village would not be possible without the program, while supporting the state's recent plan to overhaul and restock its business incentives as he looks toward other major projects in Newark.
The project is also being supported by New Market tax credits, funds from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and a host of private financing.
Teachers Village is one of several ambitious projects in the works for Beit's group, and he predicted that in two to three years, "you'll see a market that is sustained by private capital alone because all of the work the public did in getting this market here today."
"Every milestone we make here in Newark in terms of delivering buildings creates a market, adds a layer to the market," he said. "So everything we do gets easier and easier as we go from here."
All told, Teachers Village will feature three charter schools, 202 apartment units for educators and 70,000 square feet of retail. The remaining buildings are expected to be delivered by late 2014 or early 2015.
Other funding partners include Nicolas Berggruen, BRT Realty Trust, Federick Iseman, Steel Partners, TD Bank, New Jersey Community Capital, the city of Newark and Brick City Development Corp.
Coming Monday: Breaking into urban markets can be a challenge for retailers. Find out how projects like Teachers Village make it easier in next week's Spotlight on urban living.
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