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NEWARK-A cornerstone of Mayor Cory A. Booker’s recent State of the City address was the announcement that Two Center St.–a mixed-use residential and retail project on a 1.2-acre site adjacent to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center–was selected as one of the City of Newark’s top economic development priorities, following a rigorous evaluation conducted by a Scorecard committee convened by the Brick City Development Corp. Two Center St. is a partnership between NJPAC and Philadelphia-based Dranoff Properties Inc.

“We are pleased to be advancing our partnership with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. This project will strengthen our downtown, add hundreds of new housing units and create construction jobs in our city,” Mayor Cory A. Booker says in a statement. “In partnership with NJPAC and Dranoff Properties, we pledge to move this project forward intensively this year–securing the resources we need to make it a go for construction in the coming years.”

As announced last year, NJPAC entered into a Letter of Intent with Dranoff to develop Two Center St., which is envisioned to become the tallest building in Newark. The forty story-plus building is set to include a residential community of 300 units–20% of which will be set aside for artists–20,000-plus square feet of street-level, high-quality retail; possible cultural uses; and structured parking for over 550 cars.

“This is a huge vote of confidence and a milestone as Newark re-emerges as a viable and attractive destination for downtown residential living,” says Lawrence P. Goldman, NJPAC’s president and CEO. “The Scorecard process was thoughtful, tough and comprehensive and it made us think even more carefully about the kind of neighborhood we want to create around the Arts Center’s Theater Square.” He adds that a complex, mixed-use urban redevelopment project like this can only be done though a partnership of public and private entities.

Two Center St. will be the Arts Center’s first major expansion since its opening in 1997, and the first newly constructed residential building in downtown Newark in over four decades. “We see this as nothing less than a transformative development for the state’s largest city,” Goldman says. “The Arts Center was always intended as the centerpiece of a busy, inviting downtown core. Now, with Two Center St.–and the new Seton Hall Law School residence building the Mayor also announced–it’s not difficult to imagine a real urban buzz in Newark again.”

Goldman and Dranoff believe the seal of approval from the city and state will be significant as work commences to secure all necessary financing and subsidies. “Newark needs people living downtown to realize fully its burgeoning revitalization,” Goldman tells GlobeSt.com. “Throughout the country and the world–in places like London, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh–arts centers have led the way in transforming cities. There is every reason to believe that Newark can be the next major urban success story.”

While Dranoff acknowledges the realities of the current economic climate, he tells GlobeSt.com, “we have been through economic cycles before and are confident that this, too, shall pass. When it does, we will be ready on Day One to build something that will continue to change perceptions about Newark. The Arts Center itself proved that if you insist on excellence, people will support something bold and innovative. We are hugely optimistic that Two Center St. will set a standard for urban residential communities and are enormously grateful for this important endorsement from the City and State.”

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