Monday, November 14, 2016

Could Former Newark Schools See Redevelopment?

Newark, New Jersey: With more and more charter schools opening across the City of Newark, a city agency is planning to sell many former public schools.

The Newark Housing Authority has created a website to promote the redevelopment of 12 properties across the city, all of which were once part of the Newark Public Schools system. The RFP states that the NHA "has authorized the issuance of this Request for Qualifications and Proposals to prospective individuals and/or organizations with a particular interest, expertise and capital necessary in repurposing, using and/or redeveloping at least two or more of twelve properties", and that "NHA intends to enter into an agreement or multiple agreements with the most qualified Respondents that (in addition to property pricing considerations) demonstrate financial capability, vision, creativity in adaptive reuse consistent with the City’s master plan, quality construction, and ability to implement the proposed project in a timely manner and in a way that serves the best interests of the NHA, Newark Public Schools (NPS) and the City of Newark."

Properties include the 171-year-old State Street Public School near Newark Broad Street Station. A petition earlier this year called for turning the building into the NPS archives building. Other buildings on the list include the Benjamin Banneker Science Center on Lyons Avenue, the William H. Brown Academy on Bergen Street, the Clinton Avenue School near Mildred Helms Park, Maple Avenue Elementary School in Weequahic, the Burnett Street School in the Central Ward, and Roseville Avenue Elementary School, which closed despite protests by teachers and parents.

Tours were given to potential buyers earlier this month and in October, and qualifications are due by tomorrow and proposals are due by December 20. In a statement, NHA Executive Director Keith Kinard said that “the availability of these properties represents an extraordinary opportunity for developers to capitalize on the strong momentum in the marketplace, while enabling Newark Public Schools to monetize surplus assets and redeploy proceeds back to the classroom.”

Despite these vacant schools scattered throughout Newark, complaints of overcrowding remain at schools that are still open, like Central High School and South Street Elementary School.

This sale has been extensively publicized, with a press release issued by FEMWORKS, a communications agency. However, many other activities at the NHA often receive little publicity, such as the authority selling both a wooded lot across from City Hall and an abandoned Downtown train station to developers, and considering the sale of its own office building on Broad Street. Plus, the authority regularly posts agendas for meetings online after the meetings have already taken place, and has not posted its NHA Voice newsletter for residents on its website in nearly six years.

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