Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

Connecting Newark to Its River, and Its Future

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Project Name: Riverfront Redevelopment and Public Access Plan and Riverfront Park, Newark
Transforming an industrial waterfront into a public amenity

Partners: County of Essex, Ironbound Community Corp., City of Newark Planning Office, Trust for Public Land


Smart-Growth ChallengeHow can Newark reconnect with its riverfront roots in order to foster economic and recreational growth, and do so in a way that ensures residents have a strong voice in building that connection?

“Two cents from 2 percent” was the goal of the Newark Department of Economic & Housing Development when it launched the Newark Riverfront Revival (NRR) in 2008, with the objective of reconnecting the city with its earliest riverfront roots. The NRR’s mission was to bring the city’s growth closer to the edge of the Passaic River, and to bring the river’s recreational and economic development benefits to the city and its residents.

Planners wanted at least 2 percent of Newark’s total population, or 5,600 people, to have a voice in designing a future for their riverfront. Residents were encouraged to take part in collaborative “walkshops,” boating tours, outreach events and public meetings, where they could contribute to the collective vision for future growth and development of the riverfront. Thousands did so. 

One landmark outcome of this initiative was the Newark and Essex County Riverfront Park. In 2010, in partnership with Essex County, Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC), the Trust for Public Land, and many other partners, the city began construction of the 15-acre park, which features a 12-acre athletic complex, an extensive walking and biking trail, a floating boat dock, a boardwalk, and passive recreation areas.

 

Serving an area of 50,000 people and just 10 minutes from Newark Penn Station, the park connects two neighborhoods—downtown Newark and Ironbound – and offers healthy lifestyle options for residents and commuters in an area that once contained less than a half-acre of open space per 1,000 residents. The mile-long riverfront walking trail and park features a bright orange boardwalk made of recycled lumber, dubbed by New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman “a giant highlighter” that draws attention to it. Strollers, cyclists, skaters, and joggers are now welcomed to a part of the city that once discouraged pedestrians. The park also has several ecological foci, and native birds and fish have recently begun returning to their former habitat.

Newark’s River: Public Access & Redevelopment Plan

Riverfront Park offers a hint of what is to come for the five-mile-long riverfront. The Newark’s River: Public Access & Redevelopment Plan envisions future development for 250 acres running through Newark’s Ironbound and downtown and into its northern boundary with Belleville. The plan updates Newark’s municipal development regulations along the riverfront and replaces 50-year-old zoning regulations, originally created for industrial purposes, so that public access is encouraged and valuable, people-friendly urban spaces can thrive through mixed uses and open areas.

The plan incorporates five land-use zones permitting residential, commercial, retail, industrial, and open-space uses, and allows up to 30-story building heights to encourage development near public transportation hubs. Residential uses will now be permitted in lower Broadway north of the Broad Street Station, where transit accessibility makes residential development important.

The guidelines and requirements of the redevelopment plan, coupled with the public/private initiatives that created a waterfront park, will ensure that Newark gets the riverfront it deserves.

Supporting Partners: Newark Public Art Program, Broad Street Block Association, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, Hackensack Riverkeeper, Lee Weintraub Landscape Architecture, James Street Commons Neighborhood Association, MTWTF Graphic Design 

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