A True Downtown Revitalization

New York Times: “Forget the Game. Where Can We Eat?”:http://events.nytimes.com/2007/11/25/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/25dinenj.html

Emerging from Penn Station, or winding through the maze of downtown streets in search of parking, you can hardly take your eyes off the Prudential Center. The new arena (the Rock, to its fans) is an instant landmark — a mammoth brick-and-steel structure that artfully deploys curtains of glass and one of the world’s largest outdoor TV screens to avoid the curse of seeming squat and hulking.

… But for those who assumed that the neighborhood was a culinary desert, there are some nice surprises in store. What follows is a brief tour of dining spots in easy walking distance of the arena, all of them open until at least 7:30 on event evenings.

The Times provides a helpful listing of places to eat in the Newark downtown area (incredibly, they missed two of Newark’s most exciting restaurants: Mompou in the Irounbound and 27 Mix on Halsey Street). Talking with people who have gone to Devils’ games and concerts, I’ve heard a range of feedback from “Newark looked like Manhattan!” to “I don’t think I’d go again, the area is too sketchy.” The amount of effort having gone into keeping downtown safe during events has been immense, but there’s a huge difference between safe and exciting.

A friend from the East Village in New York City who was checking out a pre-season basketball game noted that the directions getting out of Penn Station were lacking. A panhandler, cashing in on an opportunity, saw him out through the Market Street doors of the station and held out a hand. My friend tipped him a dollar and the panhandler demanded more. Hardly a good first impression, and one that could be mitigated by putting some Pru Center staffers in the station.

In an effort to keep the streets well lit, the NPD have propped up flood lighting around Market Street and McCarter Highway. A noble effort, and, I’m sure, one that keeps pedestrians safer traversing the three blocks to the Pru venue, but…flood lights? Usually associated with crime scenes and highway construction, these hardly provide an air of reassurance in a city well known for its crime rates.

Downtown Newark needs a real revitalization, particularly in this area, if the city is to succeed in its resurgence. The architecture of fear that dominates the downtown financial district perpetuates the perception that Newark is unsafe. We need to establish shopping and dining in this arena corridor to welcome visitors into the city. Walking along Market Street, one is greeted by 12 feet of concrete from the Gateway complex, parking garages, parking lots and — two blocks from the giant glowing screens on the face of the arena along Route 21 — a dilapidated warehouse.

I know plans are in the works to overhaul this area. The Broad Street streetscapes project is making the area safer for pedestrians and the Booker administration is working to bring business back to Broad Street. But this city has got to capitalize on this opportunity. Let’s not just shuffle pedestrians to and from the arena. As I understand the agreement, the Devils will receive tax breaks for years, making the complex a net-zero venture for the city. We need businesses that invite sports enthusiasts and concert-goers to hang around before and after their event and spend some much-needed dollars.

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Newarker, PCA Elder, Business Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.

1 thought on “A True Downtown Revitalization”

  1. Great post, especially when you bring up the “architecture of fear.” I recommend perusing The New American Ghetto and American Ruins by photographer Camilo José Vergara. Vergara documents how urban buildings and neighborhoods change over time, and how throwing up grim, windowless buildings in poor neighborhoods that resemble a fortress are not just limited to multimillion dollar urban renewal projects like Gateway. A few Newark properties are featured in his books. Vergara now has an online exhibit titled Invincible Cities with Rutgers-Camden that I’ll probably be playing with for hours on end.

    Like

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