Location and Infrastructure Help Newark, New Jersey, Thrive

HYPERLOCAL

The ecosystem surrounding a major city often includes much more than public transportation, suburbs within commuting distance and urban infrastructure. In many cases, a smattering of smaller cities act as distinctly separate places while maintaining a symbiotic relationship to the larger city. Such is the case for Newark, a mid-sized port city less than 10 miles from Manhattan, in the neighboring state of New Jersey. While the city has long benefitted from its desirable location, it has a distinct and dramatic history that has shaped its entirely separate identity. Today, Newark is undergoing a transformation thanks in part to its location, its tech infrastructure and a recent surge in publicity.

Forest Hill
Branch Brook Park
Branch Brook Park
Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park

“Newark hasn’t really changed; our infrastructure and assets are the same, we’re just making sure we’re telling that story more clearly,” says Aisha Glover, President and CEO of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation. “Of course, it helps to have more festivals, events and restaurants—and people seeing cranes in the air—but making sure we’re telling the story that it’s safe to come to Newark is important.”

From small businesses looking to put down roots, to large corporations eyeing an expansion, Newark is an attractive option.

Since joining the Newark Community EDC in 2015, Glover has noticed the steady increase in inquiries from businesses looking to potentially settle in the area. From small businesses looking to put down roots, to large corporations eyeing an expansion, Newark is an attractive option. And the recent surge in popularity has only helped fuel the momentum: last December, candy giant Mars announced its decision to open its new U.S. headquarters in the city. Set to open by July 2020, the expansion will bring approximately 500 new jobs to the city.

One major reason companies are choosing Newark, as opposed to neighboring Jersey City or Manhattan itself, is its expansive network of unused, underground fiber. As a longtime infrastructure hub—known for early innovations in the telephone industry, electricity and engineering—the city acknowledged early on the future need for fast internet access. Over the last two decades, city officials encouraged companies moving to town to invest in fiber optic cables and have ultimately created one of the largest dark, or unused, fiber networks in the country, leading to lightning-fast wired and wireless internet access.

Despite the growing number of infrastructure investments, the fiber network, access to talent and affordable housing, the secret behind Newark’s long history boils down to location, location, location.

“Never in the last 15 years has there been so much buzz around development. You’ve got new development happening on both sides of town, as well as in the outer wards of Newark in both residential and office space,” says Cheryl Hardt, First Vice President and Newark market expert at CBRE.

With major institutions anchoring the city—including Prudential Financial, which has roots in Newark dating back to 1875, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the Prudential Center arena, Rutgers campuses, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and WBGO jazz radio, which helps preserve the city’s legacy as a jazz capital—there’s a sense of history that permeates new developments. Take the old Hahne & Co. department store building, which sat vacant for 30 years before being transformed into a multi-use development. Though it’s filled with 160 apartments, a Rutgers campus bookstore, a celebrity chef restaurant, retail, a major supermarket and more, the exterior maintains many architectural elements of the original building.

Despite the growing number of infrastructure investments, the fiber network, access to talent and affordable housing, the secret behind Newark’s long history boils down to location, location, location.

Ironbound
Ironbound

“Newark is in the middle of the Boston to Washington corridor, and it’s at the epicenter of transportation–in road, rail, highway, airport, seaport, we have it all,” says Dudley Ryan, Senior Vice President and Newark market expert at CBRE. “Newark has always been a hub. Manhattan is an island off the continental U.S., so everything that comes into the New York harbor or out of Manhattan has to go through New Jersey to get to the West Coast.”

For Glover, Newark’s location cannot be overlooked, though it’s merely one part of a host of positive attributes that sets the city apart.

“You cannot underestimate what the proximity means— It takes 18 minutes to get to Manhattan,” she notes. “It’s more affordable [than Manhattan], and yet you still feel like you’re in an urban environment. For corporations, that’s huge because there’s a thriving corporate community, but as a resident it’s even more welcoming because it’s highly diverse. People feel that there’s a culture and dynamism in what the city has to offer.”

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