NEWARK-They’ve survived numerous ownership changes and a previous threat of demolition, but this city’s Brick Towers public housing complex is now set to be razed. The 300-unit, two-building high-rise complex is officially slated for demolition and will be replaced by a new, three-building mixed-use complex.

Under plans officially unveiled at a press conference this week by Mayor Corey Booker, Keith Kinard, executive director of the Newark Housing Authority, and other city officials, the complex will be demolished within the next year. According to a timetable spelled out by Kinard, construction of the new, yet-to-be-named complex will begin in early 2008, with completion slated for late 2009.

Mayor Booker himself has lived in the complex for the past eight years. Now, however, the last residents have moved out as the city prepares to raze Brick Towers. According to Kinard, it has not been decided whether it will face the wrecking ball or be imploded.

Built in the late 1960s as a private project, the complex has changed hands several times over the years and has experienced significant physical deterioration. HUD took over the property twice, and the Newark Housing Authority finally took over ownership of the property four years ago. The possibility of eventual demolition was floated at that time.

Plans for the site’s redevelopment were determined by the now-former Brick Towers residents, who will get first crack at the new homes once they’re built. Pittsburgh architect Daniel Rothschild was hired to develop plans for the site and subsequently presented the city and Brick Towers residents with three different site plan options, which were put to a vote by residents.

The winning option from that vote calls for three buildings, the largest of which would rise a dozen stories along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Two smaller buildings would sit behind the larger structure. The project would have approximately the same number of residential units as the current complex, and the ground floor of the larger building would house the project’s retail component.

Total cost of the project has not been determined, according to Kinard, but whatever the final number is, most of the funding would be raised through private grants and tax credits. To date, HUD has already contributed $12 million to the project.

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