The Shaq attack comes to Newark, to introduce his team to redevelop an historic site that once was the headquarters of the Ballantine Brewing company, the location of Rutger’s University and last used as the former Science High School building, my alma mater. In 2008, Newark City Council cleared the way for Boraie O’Neal Urban Development, a partnership that includes two firms Boraie (Bor-AY) Development base out of New Brunswick and Newark native O’Neal, to become the designated redeveloper of the city-owned property. The purchase price was $2.75 million, its appraised value, minus demolition and cleanup costs up to $1.5 million. In New Brunswick Boriae Group has development more than 1 million square feet of residential and retail buildings in New Jersey and partnered with O’Neal to give Newark its first movie theater, The Cityplex, in decades.
The original plan submitted was to cost $90 Million and was to be the first ground-up condominium project in Newark in decades, since the Colonnades in 1962. The site just north of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, it was to include 152 high-end units, retail on the ground floor and a parking garage. The original plan was to demolish the entire building leaving some elements of the first floor early 20′”Art Deco” edifice. The revised plan retain the exterior of the original building, maintaining the the five story facade and builds the remaining 18 floor above reaching the height of 23-story, 169-unit apartment tower ( an increase of 17 additional units from the original plan) with retail space on the ground floor. It will include a pool, a gym and a doorman, and most of the units will rent for market price, ranging from $1,400 for a studio, to $2,200 for a two-bedroom, Boraie said. The project is receiving tax breaks from Newark and the state.
There was optimism in the air of an new era of development in Newark, building on the foundation of the past historic successes. Speakers highlights were “This is just the beginning, Newark has a bright future”. Since the economic recovery in New Jersey, Newark has been the location of ground breaking development over the last several years. Interesting statistic highlights this fact, “Newark represents 3 percent of New Jersey’s population, but represent 33 percent of economic development activity in New Jersey, and 80 percent of that activity has occurred in the central ward.
Wasseem Boraie, vice president at Boraie Development, said his company wanted to lay to rest the perception that “the only thing that works in Newark is affordable housing and government-sponsored projects. We didn’t believe that. The more we got into the city, the more we believed that high quality retail, high quality residential is more than possible in Newark.”
NBA legend, actor, musicians, entrepreneur, philanthropist, advocate, doctor of education, and an inspiration to our city, Dr. Shaquille O’Neal was introduced to the audience with cheers, as he adjust the podium for a big man. ”Remembering where you are from and coming back, and giving back are to often just words. Two years ago, I read an article, that said that Superstars, with their resources rarely return to the place they grew up in and they never comeback. Well the interesting thing about Shaq, is I never left. I was born in Newark, raised in Newark, have done juvenile deliquency in Newark created my character in Newark. Mother and Father are from Newark. I leftNewark, It was my beautiful city, when I returned back it look a lot different. So I am here to give back to Newark an assist in returning that beauty back to her.”
The Mayor was then introduced and given a big Shaq Bear Hug. Mayor Booker said “Nothing happens in life without, visionaries, leaders, people with great spirt prepared to do the hard work to get it done. I want to thank Prudential and Goldman Sach, and Economic Development Authority for their support in this project and many others projects in Newark. We have a great city, and Newark produce greatness, this is not nothing new. This is an undeniable truth. We produce greatness. It is disturbing to me how easy people forget these truth and malign our children of this history and heritage that has grown from these bricks. When we forget that history, we have someone that reminds us, reminds everyone that Newark produce greatness. And not greatness look at me I am a star, but rather greatness in character. True great people, by their nature seek to achieve big achievements. This building will create new jobs for the city and its residence, but not just jobs, but careers because this is a PLA project, that are going to insure the workers have careers. You see we know the truth. You can help people out, and Shaquelle has been doing that a lot. Helping those in need with toys, warm cloths and things like that. But when you give someone a path to self sufficiency, help them get a job, help them build a career. That how you empower the people to have the american dream.”
“So Shaq, I have to say this literally and metaphorically , you stand tall. Of all the great of our city, you stand tall.You are living your truth. Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t here what you say.And you are speaking the truth of Newark today with deeds and effort”.