Newark—The New Hollywood

Newark—The New Hollywood

By Christmas 2019, millions of anticipated filmgoers will be viewing Broad and Market Streets in Newark, New Jersey, as the 1970s set of the fictional Gotham City, home of DC Comics characters Batman and The Joker.

Newark was also the host city of the movie set of the 2010 Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. In the fall of 2018, movie producers returned to Newark with a budget of about $55 million for the taping of the highly anticipated Joker movie, which follows the journey of the infamous DC Comics villain—played this time by Joaquin Phoenix—from a failed comedian to a life of crime.

For the movie, downtown Newark was made to look like it was the late 1970s with signs reading “Live Nude Girls,” “Strip Search Featuring the Finest Adult Stars,” and “Kenny’s Music Shop.” The set was designed to portray a grim, seedy part of Gotham City with piles of mock garbage; wet streets; smoke; and dark, muted colored wardrobe selections for the actors.

“When a set comes to the city, it brings dollars to businesses, jobs for residents, and notoriety to the city. It just gives the city a whole different color. It’s important to have a thriving film industry because there are a lot of benefits. Some of it can be measured materially, but some is immeasurable,” says Mayor Ras Baraka.

Another testament to the growing interest filmmakers are taking in Newark is the Newark International Film Festival, which recently celebrated three consecutive years of bringing over 100 independent films from over 50 countries. This year’s three-day festival was packed with film premieres, celebrity master classes, and celebrity Q&A panels. Lance Gross served as the event’s celebrity ambassador.

In 2018 New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy restored the New Jersey Film and TV Tax Credit, approving a program that credits production companies $75 million per fiscal year for film and television projects. In order to be eligible for the 30% tax credit, production companies must spend a minimum of one million dollars or 60% of the total production budget in New Jersey. This credit had previously been suspended by former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Since the reinstatement of the Film and TV Tax Credit, shows like NBC’s The Enemy Within and the return of MTV’s Jersey Shore have filmed in Newark. “There are a lot more productions coming in but we just can’t talk about them yet,” shared David Schoner Jr., associate director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and TV Commission.

Over the past five years, Newark’s film industry has been on a steady rise, attracting other TV productions, including Spike TV’s Ink Master and BET’s Black Girls Rock awards show.

To the Stars and Back: Savion Glover

To the Stars and Back: Savion Glover

Savion Glover still resides in Newark and has contributed tremendously to the growth and support of the city’s art scene. In 2009, Savion Glover opened HooFerzClub School of Tap in Newark’s Central Ward.

Glover is a tap dancer, actor, choreographer and entrepreneur who has trained and performed with tap dance legends Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines. His exceptional skills can be seen in the box office smash Happy Feet and Happy Feet 2, performed by animated character Mumble. Glover has also choreographed and acted in movies such as Jelly’s Last Jam and Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk.

From Newark to Wakanda

From Newark to Wakanda

No matter where Michael B. Jordan goes he always comes back home.

Actor Michael B. Jordan, who portrayed EriK KilLmonger in this winter’s runaway hit Black Panther, came home to Newark just before the movie premiered to host a private screening of his own.

Jordan returned to his alma mater, Newark Arts High School, and invited ­students and special guests—including church organizations, members of the Boys and Girls Club of America, and Mayor Ras Baraka—to preview the movie, directed by Ryan Coogler and based on Marvel character Black Panther, aka King T’Challa of the fictional African country of Wakanda.

Currently living in California, Jordan, 31, has always kept close to his hometown of Newark on the East Coast. In 2015, Jordan came home to host a special screening of Creed, his most famous film at the time. It was during this visit that Newark Mayor Ras Baraka presented him with the key to the city, a rare and special honor.

Jordan came back most recently to share his excitement about the Black Panther film, the highest grossing superhero movie of all time. At press time, the movie had over $1.25 billion in ticket sales. “To be able to come back to my hometown on this project means the world to me,” he relayed to some of the press on-hand for the screening, explaining that it was a big deal for him to share his career, passion, and love of filmmaking with his community.

“I know how tough Newark is,” he continued. “I know what it’s like to feel trapped, like you don’t have many options or  opportunities. Hopefully, this movie will give [the community] a little inspiration, a little motivation, and help drive their ambition to get beyond these city walls.”

Having gotten an early start on his acting career in television, Jordan’s first substantial movie role was in the 2001 sports drama Hardball. He stayed visible on the big and small screens for the next several years, including a season on acclaimed HBO drama The Wire and the TV series Friday Night Lights.

After appearing in Red Tails (2012), a film about the Tuskegee Airmen, Jordan worked with Black Panther director Ryan Coogler for the first time in Fruitvale Station (2013), a film about the controversial police shooting of Oscar Grant. Jordan would go on to appear in a couple of other films, including Fantastic Four (2015), before landing what is considered his breakout role as Adonis Creed in Creed (2015), the last of the Rocky films, also directed by Coogler.

Now a bona fide “A-list” star, Jordan is being courted by Hollywood heavy hitters and international brands looking to have his face associated with their products. But while Jordan is enjoying his time in the spotlight, he remains humble and grateful and with a heart for giving back. And Newark is always happy to return the love.

A Creative City is a Profitable City

A Creative City is a Profitable City

The arts mean business in New Jersey’s largest city. On any given day or evening, Newark is bustling with cultural activity that appeals to art and music lovers of every kind. Government, corporate, and nonprofit leaders proudly connect this activity to jobs and money that is creating a more prosperous city.

Newark’s crowded galleries, standing-room-only festivals, and packed concerts are not only a fun time for residents and visitors, they’re good for the economy. Newark Arts, the city’s umbrella organization for all the arts, teamed up with the national research firm Americans for the Arts and conducted a year-long 2016 study, Arts & Economic Prosperity 5. It found that Newark’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates more than $178.3 million in annual economic activity, supports nearly 5,000 full-time equivalent jobs, and creates an additional $15.5 million in local and state government revenues.

Of the study, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said, “Communities that embrace arts and cultural education, activities and events are far richer than those who do not. Newark is a ‘city of the arts,’ where access to spoken word events, musical and dance performances, film, art exhibits, theatre offerings, museums and libraries add exponentially to our economic health. The impact of our commitment to the arts is felt in our communities, our businesses, our institutions, and our households, and it contributes to the revitalization that our city is experiencing. This report acknowledges the significance of our investment in this vital sector of Newark.”

Newark’s hometown artists are equally proud of the city’s cultural and economic boom. Tony Award-winning dancer, actor and entrepreneur Savion Glover said, “Newark has always been home. But also, it has always been an absolute cultural gem and the birthplace of so many talented artists. So I’m not surprised to see the incredible impact that the arts have on Newark as a whole and where we’re going as a city.”

Newark’s corporate community, which has long promoted local arts and culture, applauded the results of the study. “A thriving arts and culture industry helps local business and contributes to communities becoming stronger and healthier places to live. Based on this study, grant makers and corporations like Prudential should feel optimistic about continuing to invest in the arts,” said Shané Harris, vice president of corporate giving, Prudential Financial Inc., and executive director of The Prudential Foundation.

So know that when you take in a show, visit a museum or gallery, or experience one of the many entertainment options available in Newark, you’ll not only have a good time, you’ll be contributing to the economic vibrancy of one of America’s great cities.

Newark’s Newest Creative Spaces

The findings in the 2017 Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 study (AEP5) are evidenced by the number of arts and culture-related locations that have opened this year alone.

Express Newark, 54 Halsey Street (Opened in March 2017)

Located in the renovated Hahne & Co building, Express Newark is an arts incubator and provides video, photo, design and art classes. It was conceived by the faculty, staff and students of Rutgers-Newark and community arts leaders.

The Painters Palette, 97th Avenue (Opened in June 2017)

The Painters Palette invites you to “uncork your creativity” with painting classes and activities, such as Paint & Chew, Painting Party and Wine & Design.

Grammy Museum, 165 Mulberry Street (Opened in October 2017)

Located in the Prudential Center, the Grammy Museum -Experience will feature interactive music exhibits, public programs that include live performances, exclusive talks, and one-of-a-kind learning opportunities. It will even host your event.

Newark Museum, 49 Washington Street (Main entrance re-opened in November 2017)

The Newark Museum has re-opened its main entrance after closing it 20 years ago to keep temperature and humidity fluctuations from damaging centuries old paintings. An expansion of exhibit space now protects the art within and has enabled the re-opening.

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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