NEWARK – State and local officials, including New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) Executive Director Charles A. Richman, today celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of Walker House, which involved the transformation of the historic New Jersey Bell building into a mixed-use, mixed-income development.
The restoration by L+M Development Partners, Prudential Financial, Inc., and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group provides 264 apartments, including 53 which are affordable for families earning between 40 and 50 percent of the area median income as well as office and ground-floor retail space.
“The Bell Headquarters has been an iconic landmark in Newark for almost a century and is a reminder of the city’s thriving commerce, so it is fitting that it is being restored and opened up as a place for people to live and do business,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner and chair of the NJHMFA board. “This new residence meets our goal of providing affordable housing options for individuals with mixed-income levels. Governor Murphy and I thank the public and private entities that have come together to make this historic renovation become a reality.”
The 21-story Art Deco building, built in 1929 by the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company at 540 Broad Street, is known for its majestic lobby and brick and sandstone exterior, which were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. The development is a New Jersey Future 2019 Smart Growth Award winner.
The redevelopment brings affordable and market-rate housing to a key downtown location, as well as jobs to support the local workforce, and helps boost the state’s efforts to achieve stronger and fairer economic opportunities.
Apartments, including studios and one- to three-bedroom layouts, are located on floors six through 20, with the lower floors consisting of over 80,000 square feet of office and retail space. Walker House has been home to the regional offices of Verizon, which will continue to occupy space in the building. Projected retailers include a rock climbing gym, a craft brewery and a UPS Store. Current occupants at the building include Per Scholas, a not-for-profit providing job training to low- and moderate-income households in the information technology sector.
“Walker House provides a model for mixed-use, mixed-income development where people can live, work, shop and play in the community,” said NJHMFA Executive Director Richman. “This redevelopment exemplifies the renaissance taking place in Newark, capitalizing on its key role as a transportation hub, a prime location to build or grow business, a center for education and culture, and more.”
Market-rate apartments include an in-unit washer/dryer, and some have terraces. The top floor is dedicated to amenities for residents including a fitness and yoga center, game room, library lounge, and a rooftop terrace with outdoor seating, fire pit and BBQs.
Residents began moving in June 1. The affordable apartments were leased through a lottery at the end of 2018, which drew about 300 applicants. Rents on the affordable apartments range from $705 for a studio, with household incomes limited to $32,200 depending on household size. Rents on the three-bedroom apartments are $1,308 with incomes capped at $58,350 depending on household size.
Rents on the market-rate apartments start at $1,875.
NJHMFA provided the development with $15 million through its Conduit Bond program and also awarded 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which generated $8.9 million in private equity. The development also received $13.25 million in proceeds from federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits as well as a tax abatement from the City of Newark.
Walker House is across from light rail service, and close to NJ Transit’s Broad Street Station and Newark Penn Station. The building is across from Washington Park, and near the Newark Museum and New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
The project is the latest downtown Newark investment by L+M Development Partners, Prudential Financial, Inc. and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group in partnership with Citi Community Capital. In 2017, the partnership re-opened the historic Hahne & Co. building at 609 Broad Street with financing assistance from NJHMFA. The landmark former department store was transformed into a mixed-use development including market rate and affordable apartments, an arts and cultural center operated by Rutgers University-Newark, a Whole Foods Market, and a Marcus Samuelsson restaurant, Marcus B&P.
For more information on NJHMFA and its programs, visit njhousing.gov.