Arts, Sports and Technology Link Hands to Revitalize the City

History and Landscape
Published January 20, 2000

Arts, Sports and Technology Link Hands to Revitalize the City

| Published January 20, 2000

Sharpe James, and James and Laura Lechynksi, chairman of Continental Employee Action Group unveil a new plane bearing the name 'The Spirit of Newark' during a ceremony at Newark Airport. Mindy Bernstein, Continental's area sales manager, looks on, 1992. The Newark Public Library

Today we continue our New Year's look at developments in what is shaping up as the new Newark, starting with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

''Big, bright, versatile' is what The Star-Ledger called the concept of a great performing arts center at Newark in March 1992. Although it appears to be a single megastructure, the complex actually is a combination of seven buildings. The entire structure is 106 feet tall (four stories), occupies 230,000 square feet and is made of 191 miles of wiring, 190,000 feet of conduit, 10,000 pieces of structural steel weighing 7.2 million pounds, 300,000 bricks, 1 million concrete masonry blocks and 53.8 million pounds of concrete. The arts complex sits on a triangle bounded by Centre Street, McCarter Highway and the back of 10 Park Place, facing south. To the immediate east of the restaurant building is the city's Landing Place Monument and McCarter Highway abutted by the Passaic River.

NJPAC includes Prudential Hall which seats 2,750 and is fronted by the Prudential Hall lobby with Theatre Square restaurant on one side and behind it the kitchen. It also includes the rotunda or grand entrance, which contains the Founders' Arch and memorials to major donors. Behind the rotunda is the lobby and dressing rooms for the Victoria Theatre and administrative offices. The Victoria Theater is at the end of this structure and has a seating capacity of 500. The complex was built on what was once the site of abandoned townhouses and industrial buildings and part of an abandoned cemetery. Its visionaries included Barton Myers, its architect; Lawrence Goldman, president and CEO; and Gail Thompson, vice president for design and construction. Against all odds, the center opened on time, on budget and to the thunderous applause of an opening night crowd. As the first-nighters swept through the great glass doors onto Theatre Square, fireworks hailed all the hard work and effort put into the project. Without the help of hundreds of other individuals, the project would have never gotten off the ground. Some of those who lent their powerful positions to make it a success include former Gov. Thomas Kean; Raymond Chambers, co-chairman of the NJPAC board; Mayor Sharpe James; M. John Richard, NJPAC vice president for development and public relations; Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, co-chair of the NJPAC Board and CEO of Merck and Co., Inc.; Arthur Ryan, CEO of Prudential; and Percy Chubb III of Chubb Corp. Funding for this state showcase was $180 million. The state provided $105 million, and the remainder came from the city, foundations, individuals, corporations, the federal government and the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

Newark International Airport

Although the airport opened approximately 70 years ago largely through the efforts of the Newark Board of Trade and then Mayor Thomas L. Raymond, it remains, in many ways, new and ever-changing. It is the largest single complex and the eighth busiest airport in the United States as well as the 13th busiest in the world. The airport's three large terminals are connected by a monorail system that is presently undergoing a $1 billion renovation scheduled to take four years. Today 18,000 people are employed at the airport, which generates $11.3 billion in regional commerce. Under the Global Gateway Modernization Program, Continental Airlines operates its second busiest hub in Newark and is spending $700 million to upgrade Terminal C. The improved terminal will account for more than 60 percent of the airport's 300 daily flights. A major overhaul of the immigration and customs facility at Terminal C also is taking place at a cost of $83 million. Another $65 million is being used to improve the access road from Routes 1 and 9 and Exit 13A of the New Jersey Turnpike. An additional $150 million will be spent on a giant parking garage. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the facility, plans to spend $93 million for a runway extension and a new control tower by 2002. It has taken time, but Newark's role in regional, national and international transportation has become larger and more noticed.

High Rises in Ironbound

Newark's tall buildings were built in stages and in different locations within the city. The first group was around Broad and Market streets and included the old Firemen's Company, the Kenny Building and the great Norman/Romanesque structures of the original Prudential group. The second group of skyscrapers was constructed in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It included the National Newark, Lefcourt, New Jersey Bell and the American Insurance buildings and the rambling Public Service terminal on Robert Smith Park. The third group includes the Mutual Benefit Company, the new Prudential tower, and First National State Bank building, now being converted at 550 Broad St. The fourth building phase was dispersed around the city and includes the four Gateway towers, One Newark Center, the Riverfront Law Plaza, and the two glass-clad Hartz Mountain built structures, one 12-stories, just feet from the Passaic River and the train station.

NJIT School of Architecture

''The Lantern on the Hill' is the way one person described the new School of Architecture at NJIT. The nation's fifth largest architectural school celebrated its 25th anniversary by rebuilding and extending its home in the former Weston Hall on King Boulevard. Architect Arvind Tikku, a graduate of the school, noted 'It was kind of fun, something I could return to the school that will be long-lasting.' Before completion of the present building, students attended classes in five different buildings which Urs Gaucht, the dean, described as a rabbit warren. In the new building, the computer is king. Each student enters with his or her own computer for use in a computer friendly enclave. The term 'Lantern on the Hill' refers to the fact that the lights are never out in the building, where students work all hours on individual projects. The building has also been described as 'structural and mechanical nudism' since everything from the red girders to the basement rooms are completely open to public view through enormous windows. The seven-story brick building cost $18 million to make over. The Hillier Group of Princeton added an additional 35,000 feet to the 40-year-old original structure which encompassed 75,000 square feet. The exterior is red-orange brick, designed to match the York Center across Warren Street, and form a true gateway to the campus. The beacon-like presence of the building is visible from all over downtown, and is indeed an important addition to the city's academic skyline.

Rutgers Law School

The Center for Law and Criminal Justice recently moved from its former home at 15 Washington St. to a new $49 million law school at New and Washington streets. The 200,000 square foot facility is designed to house the school's 700 students. Originally opened in 1908, the state's oldest law school has had several different homes, most recently in the old American Insurance Building next to the Newark Public Library. Designed by Joseph Tattoni, the new building's red-orange bricks complement the New Jersey Performing Arts Center across Military Park. The new structure, which faces New Street, also houses the Center for Global Change and Governance, the School of Criminal Justice and the Provost's Office. The interior is centered around a large atrium with a spiral staircase. A three-story law library occupies an important position in the new building. A large modern clock tower is a distinguishing feature of the front entrance, along with an enormous window.

Baseball is Back

In the 1930s and 1940s, Newark's minor league Bears and Eagles were the hottest teams in American minor league baseball. Their old home at Ruppert Stadium in the Ironbound was the center of minor league activity. Thus, it was a sad day when many of the Eagles players were absorbed into the major leagues, and the Bears left for a new home at Hartford. At one time, the Bears drew crowds of 25,000. As for the Eagles, owners Effa and Abe Manley were always looking over their shoulders at the major league scouts who came to recruit players for their teams. Now, baseball is back. On July 16, 1999, under the guidance of Newark's own Rick Cerone, a former New York Yankee and owner of the new Newark Bears, the new Riverfront Stadium opened. Said Cerone, 'It (minor league baseball) will bring back the things that Newark needs most; people and pride and great family entertainment.' The end of the first half season was indeed successful. Opening night drew a crowd of more than 6,000 in the new $29 million stadium. The home team won as the sports elite of the state along with the kids from the next block roared their approval when the first ball was knocked out of the park to the edge of the Passaic River. With the emergence of minor league baseball the stage has been set for the revival of major league sports competition in the city. Handled properly, and with some luck, sports as a business can be a major player in the city's future.

South Ward Industrial Park

Not all redevelopment is taking place downtown. The frequent criticism of rebuilding the city is that the 'downtown gets everything.' While it is vital that the central core of the city be rebuilt so that it can compete with other cities, its outlying districts also needs attention. The South Ward Industrial Park is a good example of the reinforcement of the total community. Begun nearly 20 years ago under the Gibson administration, it is nearing completion under Mayor Sharpe James. Originally it was to have cost more than $9 million with a capability of employing 500, but the 1997 version is a $6.8 million project with the possibility of employing 300. The new industrial park building has a 28-foot ceiling to accommodate trucks and is designed to be a flexible manufacturing center with an attractive facade and 24-hour security. It is part of the South Ward Neighborhood Partnership program funded by public, private and non-profit sources. Nearly 200 townhouses are to be constructed around it to reinforce the economic strength of the Ward.

Route 21 Viaduct

The new Route 21 viaduct which connects the airport and downtown Newark via Broad Street/McCarter Highway is under construction by the New Jersey Department of Transportation in three phases. It will replace an outdated structure which serves as a major gateway to Newark. The first phase of construction includes the concrete piers completed in April. The second, focusing on the roadway, is due to be completed by fall. The first and final phase will include approaches to the bridge from Broad Street and McCarter Highway. Once the new viaduct is completed the old roadway bridge will be demolished. The original structure, built in 1934 with two lanes in each direction, now handles 10,000 cars daily from routes 1, 9, 22 and 78. The new bridge will have three lanes each way and breakdown shoulders will cost $150 million and is federally funded.

Science Park

Science Park was envisioned in the early 1990s as occupying 52 acres in the University Heights section of the Central Ward at a cost of approximately $500 million. Bounded by Central Avenue and Bergen, Lock and Warren streets, its concept is patterned after Triangle Park in North Carolina near the Raleigh-Durham campus of Duke University. Similar parks can be found in New Haven, Conn. and Evanston, Ill. Here in Newark, the goal is 'to help stimulate business, educational, residential and cultural growth in the city.' Unlike many office parks, Science Park is affiliated with the urban universities that bound it and will draw heavily upon academic expertise to stimulate new business and development. Science and mathematics will be emphasized at a soon-to-be-built science high school. The Council for Higher Education in Newark (CHEN) will be housed within the area as will a number of incubator laboratories for new technology companies and business concerns. In the next two decades, heavy emphasis will be devoted to the development of new biomedical products. More than 1 million square feet will be occupied by the park's various activities. Plans call for 150 to 200 townhouses to be built in the area. In 1993, The New York Times described the area as a community with 'high-tech hopes for a depressed urban tract.' Time will measure the success. A drive around the area today reveals the old Howard Savings building serving as a business incubator for small tech operations and CHEN's adjoining offices. Future emphasis will be devoted to stimulating developments in neuroscience, biomaterials, medical devices, bioengineering and environmental technology. Within a few blocks of the start-up building will be the new home of the Public Health Research Institute, which is moving to Newark from Manhattan. This center of national note is dedicated to the study of infectious diseases, adding to Newark's potential as an advanced research center.