Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

Bringing Expanded Purpose to an Iconic Building

Project Name: Walker House

A landmarked Art Deco office building repurposed to bring new mixed-income housing to the heart of downtown

Partners: L+M Development Partners; Prudential, Inc.; Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group; Citi Community Capital

 

 


What is now called Walker House is perhaps better known as the New Jersey Bell building. Designed by Ralph Walker, it was built in 1929 for the Bell Telephone Company when Newark was one of the Eastern Seaboard’s dominant centers of commerce. Its iconic Art Deco-style sandstone exterior and its grand lobby are on the National Register of Historic Places. Its location gives it access to Washington Park across the street, to multiple transit options, and to cultural amenities including the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the Newark Museum, and the Aljira Center for Contemporary Art.

The building has always been occupied by offices, and has received few upgrades since its original construction. Now, more than 80 years after it was built, it was time for a renovation. Rather than keep it exclusively as office space, given Newark’s recent resurgence, was there an opportunity to reposition the building as something more? The developer, L+M Development Partners, thought there was. This kind of repurposing of iconic buildings is an area of expertise for the firm; in 2016 it finished the Hahne & Co. Building, just blocks away. For the Bell Building, they envisioned a unified live-work-play environment comprising retail on the basement and ground floors, office space on the next four floors, new housing for floors six through 21, and a full-floor amenity space for residents, complete with panoramic views, on the top floor. A full 20% of the 264 new residences that the project has created are designated as affordable, and apartment types range from studios up to three-bedroom units in an effort to draw a diverse mix of residents. Refitting the building in this way also makes it part of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s “Hire. Buy. Live. Newark.” initiative, which is working to bring a productive ecosystem of jobs, business growth and new residents to the city.

Adding new housing to what had always been a downtown office building is accomplishing another of the city’s goals: activating the streets in a primarily business district during non-work hours. More activity, with more businesses and attractions, is helping to reinforce a perception that Newark is safe for both workers and residents, and is creating new demand for dining, nightlife, culture and small businesses in the area.

Because this was a repurposing of an existing structure in a dense urban core, there was limited opportunity to incorporate green stormwater management techniques. Nonetheless, a new stormwater detention system added under an undeveloped portion of the site will detain runoff from that area and lessen the burden on Newark’s stormwater infrastructure, and a partially landscaped rooftop terrace will help lessen the stormwater runoff from the top of the building.

The renovation of what is now Walker House, named after its designer, is keeping at least one major office tenant: Verizon, the successor to New Jersey Bell, will retain the renovated office space it has always had there. With completion of the renovation imminent, Walker House is set to distinguish itself as one one more milestone in Newark’s efforts to build its reputation as a landmark home for new residents and businesses.

Supporting Partners: New Jersey Community Capital; Inglese Architecture and Engineering; Broad Mark Builders LLC; CetraRuddy Architecture DPC; Skyline Engineering; Urban Atelier Group; National Trust Community Investment Corporation

See all 2019 Smart Growth Awards

© New Jersey Future, 16 W. Lafayette St. • Trenton, NJ 08608 • Phone: 609-393-0008 • Fax: 609-360-8478

Are you receiving our Future Facts newsletter?

  • Latest news on land-use policy issues
  • Research and reports
  • Upcoming events
  • Every two weeks

Click to subscribe