Pru will be moving from
Gateway Center to Military Park.

(Save the date: RealShare New Jersey New Brunswick, NJ, September 19.)

NEWARK–Prudential said it would start work on a 20-story office building near Military Park in downtown Newark this fall, after its plans for a $444 million two-building complex won unanimous approval from Newark’s planning board Monday night.

The insurance giant, which has had its headquarters in Newark for more than 130 years, plans to construct its new home in two phases on a site bordered by Broad, Halsey, and West Park Streets.

Prudential has maintained offices on Broad Street for more than 30 years – at the Gateway Center, five blocks south of Military Park. When the company was awarded a $250 million ten-year tax credit from the state Economic Development Authority if it builds the new headquarters in Newark, existing landlords at Gateway objected, saying Prudential’s move will devastate their building. The landlords helped force a review of the tax abatement, which was lowered to $210 million.

Other objections surfaced from taxpayer interests, who pointed out that the Fortune 100 company made $3.5 billion in profit last year. Still, Newark officials pronounced themselves overjoyed at the fact that Prudential will build a sparkling new complex housing 400 employees in a blighted area of downtown now populated by parking lots and vacant buildings.

After the building proposal was formally laid out Monday night, Newark Councilman Darrin Sharif was quoted as telling Prudential representatives: “You had me at hello.” Sharif represents the Central Ward, which encompasses Military Park.

Lawyers for Gateway did not say after the planning approval was granted whether they will appeal that decision.

If construction proceeds as planned, several older and vacant buildings on the site would quickly be demolished. Construction of the tower would be complete by fall 2014, according to Prudential.

The second phase of the company’s complex would include another tower, a parking deck, plazas and atriums between buildings, and 20,000 square feet of street-level retail space.