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Editorial: Easiest way to measure growth is with housing

A rendering of the planned One Theater Square project in Newark.
A rendering of the planned One Theater Square project in Newark. - ()

It's very easy to point to all the reasons Newark should be successful as a place to live and work.

Between access to New York City and the region through airports and transit, a shiny new sports arena, the home base of many prominent companies and the cachet of being the largest city in New Jersey, the Brick City should have long ago shed its negative reputation in favor of becoming a 24/7 city drawing the upwardly mobile young professionals who are leading the movement toward urban downtown living.

But for all that, it’s hard to point to tangible projects that demonstrate the city’s success, which made us happy to report earlier this month on the progress made at One Theater Square.

The 22-story high-rise building near the city’s iconic Military Park and NJPAC is one of the most exciting signs of life in the residential real estate sector since the Eleven80 building opened for rentals in the downtown core a decade ago. And while Eleven80 was an excellent example of reusing vacant space, the fact that One Theater is new construction adds even more enthusiasm to this project.

Dranoff’s One Theater Square residential project is a strong signal Newark is moving in right direction.

For Newark to enjoy the 24/7 city designation that Manhattan and other iconic places have, it has to build a balance of reliable business traffic and residential volume. No question it’s been doing better on the business recruitment front, with companies such as Panasonic and Audible coming to town, and Prudential and Rutgers expanding and improving their footprints in town.

And new amenities such as the aforementioned Prudential Center and its nearby Marriott hotel, as well as a plethora of nearby restaurants and bars, are pulling in the kind of tourist traffic Newark needs. But the city’s continuing struggles with crime and its lamentable public image have hampered its ability to entice developers to build new residential properties.

Newark’s longstanding public safety issues won’t be erased overnight. But we’re always encouraged when we see companies recommit to the city — and it’s even more heartening to see developers double down on the city, also.

If anyone was willing to take a chance on Newark, you had to expect it would be Carl Dranoff, the developer of One Theater Square, who is based in Philadelphia, home of its own reputation challenges. Good for the builder — and for the Economic Development Authority, which awarded $33 million in tax credits — in having the foresight to bring a project like this to market at what seems like a perfect time to invest in Newark. We hope more developers, and additional companies, feel likewise.

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