A Stately Place to Work

A Stately Place to Work

Along a two-mile stretch of Newark’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. you’ll find some of the stateliest mansions. The strip was known as the city’s illustrious High Street during America’s Gilded Age, during the late 1800s. It’s where some of Newark’s industrial magnates, bankers and barons of yesteryear built a neighborhood that would be envied by residents and visitors alike. And it’s where three young entrepreneurs—Robert Demetrio, Pietro Calabretta, and Allan Suarez—decided to put down roots.

But instead of building a residential unit, the trio created a place where future barons could work, now called the Newark Foundry. “We started out renovating old brownstones in Brooklyn, but we were looking to move away from residential homes and into more commercial spaces,” explains Suarez.

With more than 30 years of construction, carpentry and restoration experience, the developers invested more than $350,000 to restore the charm of a neglected 6,200-sq-ft. mansion and convert it into a community hub for Newark entrepreneurs, professionals and freelancers.

Modern Technology Runs Throughout

“We strongly believe that Newark is on the cusp of being ­recognized as a legitimate tech hub leader,” foresees Suarez. The team recognized the importance of marrying contemporary technology with vintage architecture, which now makes the four-story Victorian-style building equipped with all the efficiencies necessary for a budding business. “Of course, we’re hardwired for Internet, data and phone on all three floors. And we didn’t have to destroy any of the original construction in the process.”

Co-founder Demetrio adds, “We added security cameras to each floor and the exterior, we use a Ring doorbell system that chimes through your smartphone, and there’s low-energy-use LED lighting.”

Sorry, No Vacancies

Combining these amenities with central heating and air ­conditioning, and a dedicated parking lot with an adjacent overflow lot, has not only made professionals come knocking, it’s made them rush the door.

As of August 1, 2017, just three short months after the Newark Foundry’s ribbon cutting, all 15 permanent offices have been rented, and the co-working space on the first floor has been converted into an office suite to meet popular demand.

Some of the businesses now calling Newark Foundry their corporate headquarters include law firm Irving and Mendenhall, Qunnections Management Group., and MCI Property Management.

Eyes on Newark

“We love reactivating old buildings. If there’s anything we can save and restore, we will,” shares Suarez. But it isn’t just a love of interior carpentry that led the developers to Newark’s doorstep.

“Newark could be a viable alternative to New York City’s overcrowded and expensive co-working options. We want to be a part of how Newark’s growing,” adds Suarez, who says this project was in the back of his mind for almost four years.

In 2013, a staffer for former Mayor Cory Booker invited the Newark Foundry owners to tour similar types of working space on the west coast, hoping to entice them to do that kind of work in Newark. “From there, it just grew,” recalls Suarez.

Next came location scouting, financing and, ultimately, the Newark Foundry.

Putting Newark to Work

Putting Newark to Work

Newark’s Mayor Ras J. Baraka officially launched Newark 2020, the signature initiative of his Hire.Buy.Live Newark program meant to boost local employment on July 12, 2017. The date was the 50th anniversary of the Newark Rebellion, which consisted of four days of rioting, looting, and property destruction in 1967 that left 26 dead and hundreds injured.

Now, 50 years later, all eyes are on ­Newark again. Businesses are beginning to hire more Newark residents, companies are starting to buy more goods and services from other local companies, and more people are moving to Newark to live and raise families there.

Truth be told, when Mayor Baraka won the election in 2014, many acted as if there would be another riot. Reporters came to City Hall armed with questions about whether young Baraka would follow in the footsteps of his father, acclaimed poet and activist Amiri Baraka.

“People saw my father as leftist or a radical. I have no issue with that. Those were turbulent times,” Mayor Baraka told a reporter once. However, this is a new era. “Now, we are trying to create stability. We want to bring quality of life and quality of goods into the community.”

So while most towns in New Jersey are touting Work.Live.Play, Mayor Baraka is singing a different tune. He is chanting Hire.Buy.Live.

“This is not a time to play,” says Mayor Baraka. “We have some serious work to do in Newark, and we are doing it.”

What exactly is Hire.Buy.Live Newark?

Hire. Buy. Live Newark is an initiative from the mayor’s office created to spur the business community to hire locally; buy goods and services locally, and to encourage employees to live locally.

Mayor Baraka brought the city’s leading institutions to the table and created the vision for an economic development strategy that combines jobs, procurement and local residence. He says his highest priority with this strategy is to ensure that all residents benefit from Newark’s surge of investment and development.

A recent report from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice revealed that the poverty rate for minorities in Newark is 33%—more than double the national average. It also showed that only 18% of the jobs in Newark are held by city residents, a proportion much lower than most major cities.

The Hire component of Hire.Buy.Live Newark is aimed at changing those percentages with its Newark 2020 initiative. Its goal is to have 2,020 of the city’s unemployed and under-employed residents hired into full-time, living wage jobs by the year 2020. This will cut in half the employment gap between Newark and New Jersey as a whole, according to the aforementioned report from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

So far the initiative seems to be ­catching on. More than a dozen major institutions in Newark have committed to the goal. Some of these companies include RWJBarnabas, Prudential, Panasonic, PSEG and learning institutions such as NJIT and Rutgers.

On a more grassroots level, the City of Newark has converted a used mobile unit from the Newark Police Division into a satellite office for the city’s workforce development office, NewarkWORKS. “The jobmobile visits parts of the city with the highest levels of unemployment, bringing access to jobs to residents who have faced serious obstacles to employment,” explains Mayor Baraka.

According to a city spokesman, “The Hire.Buy.Live Newark initiative is the first time any American city has tried to transform its economy by combining employment, procurement and residential strategies.”

NewarkWorks-Mobile Unit

A NewarkWORKS mobile unit in the community to provide employment services for residents.

The Buy component of Hire.Buy.Live Newark supports the growth of local businesses and matches them to the purchasing needs of other Newark businesses, large and small. Business partners such as Ports America, and United Airlines are committed to increasing overall local procurement from 3% to nearly 20% by the year 2020.

The Live component aims to attract more employees, faculty and students to live in the city where they work and go to school. Business partners such as Audible are already offering rent incentives to employees who relocate to Newark.

If all goes well, Hire.Buy.Live will become a national model for urban economic development and corporate responsibility. At a time when federal programs to support America’s urban areas are under attack, Newark just may be demonstrating that important solutions to economic inequality can come from within.

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