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NEWARK-City and state officials yesterday rolled out a work force housing initiative in partnership with New York City-based Apollo Real Estate Advisors and locally based Radiant Property Management, aimed at keeping people who work in the city as residents. Apollo, which acquired nine apartment buildings totaling 724 units and 575,000 sf in the city’s South Ward for $43 million from an undisclosed seller, will invest another $7 million in renovations. Radiant Property Management will add its multifamily management expertise to the mix.

The initiative specifically aims at keeping police, firefighters and teachers who work for Newark as residents. Those city employees will receive a 10% discount on their rent, according to Mayor Cory Booker, who started talking about ways to address the city’s workforce housing problems with Apollo principal James H. Simmons, III two years before his election.

The initiative also aims to make the buildings energy efficient, environmentally friendly and affordable to middle class workers. Rents will run from $600 to $1,100 a month for a studio to three bedrooms in the two- to six-story buildings that range from 25 to 257 apartments.

“We are reclaiming our city’s pride,” Booker said at yesterday’s press conference. “Today, we hit so many of our primary values–creating environmentally friendly housing in a city that deals with too much asthma and other health problems.”

He continued that “many of our police, firefighters and teachers have chosen to live outside of the city in order to find more affordable housing. This initiative will give them affordability. We can beat the rents they are paying in the towns around us.”

Adam Zellner, Gov. Jon Corzine’s director of policy and planning, expects the initiative to serve as a model for the state. “You cannot, in this state, look at affordable housing. It has to be an element of something else. It cannot succeed on its own,” Zellner said. “This is the beginning of investment, not only in the right type of housing, but in sustainable housing.”

For Apollo, it’s the company’s first investment in Newark. The company is said to be actively pursuing other acquisitions in the city, but Simmons declined to disclose any details of the company’s discussions.

“Newark has all of the things that should make it a world-class city,” he said at yesterday’s press conference. “It has great transportation, great parks and a great human culture. What’s important today is not these four walls. What’s important is providing quality housing for the people who work and live here.”

Within a month of closing title on the properties Apollo had renovated model units for prospective tenants to tour in the nine buildings, Simmons revealed. He anticipates completing the upgrades to the common areas and 55 apartments in 603 Elizabeth Ave., where the press conference was held, in March, followed by improvements the other eight buildings. All of the buildings currently have tenants.

Booker noted that 603 Elizabeth Ave., on a bus line overlooking Weequahic Park and golf course, was a diamond of upper crust housing in Newark’s heyday, before a decades-long decline that the mayor said “bled away” half the population of the state’s largest city.

“When you talk to old-timers, they’ll tell you, you’d made it when you got to Elizabeth Avenue,” the mayor said. “We’re reclaiming our city one block at a time. We’re going to set a national standard.”

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