Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith is standing in front of a townhouse development on Union Avenue that is nearing completion. The project consists of nine two-family units and a one-family unit..
The renewed economic development of commercial centers within our urban cities demands a similar surge in their housing markets. This approach was activated in 2003—just one year after I assumed office—with the Township of Irvington’s ambitious, aggressive redevelopment plan concentrating on residential properties.
The initiative naturally complemented our business development strategy, which was driven by two primary factors. Irvington is situated in the core of a regional transportation network that boasts Newark Liberty International Airport; the Garden State Parkway; Routes 78, 1 & 9 and 22; and Ports Newark and Elizabeth.
My administration formed a landmark agreement with NJ Transit and the state Department of Transportation to reconstruct the Irvington Bus Terminal in a $4.4 million project.
Re-opened in April 2005, the bus terminal is strategically positioned between our main commercial corridor—commonly known as “The Center”—and a challenged, but potential-rich community. Although it claims just one-fifth of Irvington’s 2.8 square miles, the East Ward is densely populated, and it enjoys a location that is conducive to residential, as well as retail, revitalization. Its successful transformation, therefore, is critical to the overall future prosperity of the Township of Irvington.
We courted diligent partners who demonstrated a commitment to rebuilding a community to which they had strong ties. One such person is Rev. Cornelius Martin, the long-time pastor of the 36-year-old Unity Freedom Baptist Church on South 20th Street in Newark. Martin had already constructed a number of homes on the Newark side of the 20th Street corridor as chairman of the church’s 10-year-old New Visions Development Corporation, and eagerly embraced our opportunity to build on the Irvington side.
In 2005, Martin joined with Mark Lustbader, senior vice president for projects at Hub Realty, a 40-plus-year-old firm based in West Orange, to launch New Visions Redevelopment Associates, LLC (NVRA).
Upon designation as an official redevelopment entity by the township in spring 2005, NVRA acquired
An artist’s rendering of a 2-family home by New Visions Redevelopment Associates (NVRA).
14 vacant lots and 6 derelict structures for its $6.5 million construction of 22 two- and three three-family homes in a target area bounded by Ellis Avenue to the west, 18th Avenue to the north, the Irvington/Newark border to the east and Springfield Avenue to the south. The project is the largest in cost and scope that is underway in the East Ward and one of the most significant residential developments in the entire township.
The new NVRA partnership was propelled by a veteran booster of community development organizations, Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC), which loaned $288,500 for architectural planning, engineering planning, environmental oversight and other seed costs. Established in 1980, LISC has raised more than $7 billion nationwide for community development activities that include the building of housing, retail, community and education spaces. Activities in New Jersey are administered by Gerard Joab, senior program director, through LISC of Greater Newark and Jersey City.
The liaison among the Township of Irvington, NVRA and LISC exemplifies the potent public/private partnerships that have been pursued and promoted by my administration. We look forward to working with LISC on future ventures that focus on the development of housing, commercial entities and community facilities.
Construction on NVRA’s brick exterior homes began in June 2006; the project is about 75 percent complete, and the remaining structures are expected to be finished this summer. All 25 homes are under contract; the two-families sold for $385,000, and the three-families sold for $425,000.
PROFILE OF THE IRVINGTON REDEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Amenities include one- and two-car attached garages for the two- and three-family homes respectively, central air/heating, wiring for cable TV and intercom, and balconies and bay windows on some properties.
The project has generated great hope and excitement for a community that, for years, languished under adverse market and societal forces, in addition to neglect and inaction by prior municipal administrations. In July 2006, about 75 people representing the residential, business, ministerial and social services sectors attended the groundbreaking ceremony and walking tour of the NVRA target area.
This project has helped catalyze overall housing growth, as additional redevelopment surrounds the NVRA parcels, and other properties emerge throughout the town.
An 18-unit condominium development under construction on Newton Place
For example, construction is nearing completion on nine two-family and a single one-family township development on Union Avenue in the South Ward; the project area abuts the West Ward, our gateway to the suburbs of Hillside, Union and Maplewood. In addition, construction is underway on an 18-unit condominium development located a few blocks from Civic (municipal) Square in the North Ward on Newton Place.
The next few years will be defined by the energy, excitement and unprecedented progress that have shaped our mission to date, as we fulfill “New Visions” for the Township of Irvington.
An artist’s rendering of IHOP, which will replace the existing Kless Diner in a $1.7 million project
Wayne Smith is the mayor of the Township of Irvington, a community of 65,000 residents. In November 2006, Mayor Smith was installed as the president and chairman of the 24-member NJ Urban Mayors’ Association.