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NEWARK-The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is fact. So is a new minor league baseball stadium, a new regional headquarters for the FBI, and several new telecommunications hotels. City officials want to bring new residents to Downtown in New Jersey’s largest city, and they want to give them something to do after hours.

To do so they’ve gone out of state, to Pennsylvania, to bring in a development consortium called Parkside Associates, based in Philadelphia. Yesterday, the New Newark Foundation, a public/private group charged with making Downtown Newark a residential destination, announced it had picked Parkside to turn the former Hahnes Department Store building and the Griffith Piano factory, both vacant since the mid 1970s, and two vacant plots, into a $160-million mixed-use residential/retail development.

The residential target audience is upscale, focusing on high-ceilinged lofts; the retail will be heavily oriented toward entertainment and restaurants. By the numbers, the proposal includes about 550 rental apartments and a parking facility for more than 1,000 cars. The size of the retail component hasn’t been specified, but will encompass much of the ground-level area of the eight-square-block project.

“This is an innovative initiative that will complement earlier development,” says Newark Mayor Sharpe James of the project, whose residential units are expected to be available in about two years. “We are creating Downtown neighborhoods where residents can walk to various attractions. We already have people asking when they can move in.”

The development group is as interesting as the project itself. Universal Cos., for instance, is a non-profit group headed by Kenneth Gamble, better known for his collaboration on more than 3,000 songs for performers like the O’Jays, Patti LaBelle, Michael Jackson, the Delfonics and the Stylistics, to name a few. Credited with creating the “Philadelphia Sound,” he founded Universal eight years ago to rebuild the housing stock in his old neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

Another partner, Dranoff Properties, was formed four years ago by well-known developer Carl Dranoff, whose forte has been rejuvenation of urban multifamily properties. King of Prussia, PA-based Kravco Co. is one of the country’s top shopping center developers. The company currently owns and manages almost 20 million sf of shopping center space, most of it enclosed regional malls.

“Newark is making a major comeback, and we may have a major announcement to make there,” Kravco president Lew Gantman told GlobeSt.com exclusively last month in an interview at the annual spring convention of the International Council of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas. “The project that we’re involved in is a great opportunity.”

Raymond Chambers, a co-owner of the New Jersey Nets, now part of the YankeeNets, created the New Newark Foundation. NNF is headed by James A. Schmidt, former executive director of a unit of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

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