Could Newark, New Jersey, be the Northeast’s next big tech hub? It already boasts the region’s most advanced fiber-optic network and serves as home to digital giants like Audible.com, an Amazon company. No wonder it was a top contender for HQ2. Though it didn’t win the bid, one major project that’s been in planning for three years could raise the city’s status to the next level.
An upcoming development in the heart of downtown Newark promises to be a vital, mixed-use community for innovative companies. Riverfront Square, envisioned by local firm Lotus Equity Group, will be built steps away from the Passaic River and feature up to 2.3 million square feet of office, residential, hospitality, cultural space, and more within the city’s burgeoning tech sector, the Broad Street Corridor.
Lotus has tapped TEN Arquitectos, Michael Green Architecture, Minno & Wasko, and Practice for Architecture & Urbanism (PAU) to design individual buildings for the 12-acre site as part of a masterplan by PAU. Built out in seven phases, the project will sit atop the old Newark Bears baseball stadium, which will be demolished later this year to make way for the first housing structure, a curved linear building built over a five-story, mixed-used base clad in brick. Designed by PAU, the elongated structure will be set at the edge of Riverfront Square along the Essex Freeway.
In an interview with AN in 2017, Vishaan Chakrabarti of PAU said the city lacks a “connective tissue” to link its many cultural and educational institutions together. Riverfront Square, he said, will be a sort of “renaissance for Newark” with a focus on tech. Initial renderings reveal the first four phases of construction, which will add 1,300 workforce housing units and half-a-million square-feet of commercial office space to the site. Phase 1 of construction is set to break ground this summer.
At the core of the development will be a mass timber building, touted as the tallest of its kind in the United States, by Vancouver architect Michael Green. The 12-story office structure appears in renderings to be three separate structures, but in reality, the building features a continuous floorplate connected by a full-height atrium. With 500,000 square feet of office space, it will also include ground floor retail, a café, and restaurants to help ignite what the developers want to become a 24/7 district. It will be built on the site’s southwestern corner.
David Linehan, Lotus’s architect and development manager for Riverfront Square, said setting up a sustainable environment to benefit Newark (and lure people in) is a key component of the project, one that the city understands and is committed to backing. “It’s difficult to get newer products and ideas like using mass timber for large-scale projects through current codes, especially in New York,” he said. “For Newark, we’re working with the State of New Jersey to take a look at existing codes that allow timber to be used at this level. The city sees it as an opportunity to be at the forefront of what’s clearly going to be a major part of the future construction industry in the U.S.”
During the second phase of construction, four rectangular towers will be raised at the southern edge of the site along Broad Street. Enrique Norten will design the buildings, which will be offset slightly from each other in order to maximize light, air, and views of New York’s skyline. They’re likely to feature a metal panel and glass facade.
Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects will provide a plan for the site’s green spaces, which will turn a very urban, concrete area into a nature-filled leisure and cultural retreat for residents and local workers. The landscape will aim to increase downtown’s connection to the adjacent Newark Riverfront Park, an on-going landscape development that received an award-winning initial design by Lee Weintraub in 2013. James Corner Field Operations is slated to create an additional 15 acres of space for the park in the coming years.