From the roof of the Hahne building at 40-62 Halsey Street in Newark, one sees a city under construction. A stand of newly planted trees and a farmers market in the recently refurbished Military Park.
The shiny mirrored façade of the new Prudential Building partially obscures the old Prudential Plaza headquarters at the corner of Broad and Market Streets, where the Prudential Insurance Company of America has held down Newark’s commercial center since it first set up shop there in 1877.
Concrete is being poured for a foundation slab across from the new cafes and restaurants on Halsey Street, and the Hahne building itself is getting a gut renovation after years of disuse and neglect.
Halsey Street is in transition, and the Hahne building is at the center of that transformation. One of the “Big Three” department stores that drew shoppers from across the region to downtown Newark, Hahne conjures the city’s bright commercial past and is an integral site within the collective memory of the region.
“We’d go to Bamberger’s, Kresge’s and Hahne’s. . . We were very fortunate downtown, and I say this as a Newarker, we were very fortunate in having all these stores that opened all on Halsey Street. And at one time, there were some plans afoot to open an arcade on Halsey Street so that people would be able to walk without the fear of traffic. But that never came to a reality.”
–James Churchman, Newarker
“There are some people that we have here [renovating Hahne’s] that are Newark residents who have some tie to the building. They were here as children when their parents took them to get graduation clothes, or for christenings, or weddings, bar mitzvahs or whatever. I’ll often hear stories that begin, ‘I remember when my parents took me here.’”
-Michael Handler, L&M Developers project manager
Scheduled to be completed by the end of December 2016, the repurposed Hahne building (outfitted with market rate apartments, retail, a Whole Foods, and a university/community arts collaborative) is expected to contribute to the revival of downtown Newark, link the University Heights neighborhood to the downtown commercial and arts districts, and convince Millennials who go to school or work in Newark to live in the city.
The Hahne renovation is one piece of a larger transformation of downtown Newark. Developers have returned after a long absence. Urban villages are springing up everywhere. Teachers Village and Makers Village are two of several recent downtown development projects that aspire to bring young creatives to Newark to live and work alongside the 60,000 students pursuing degrees in the adjacent University Heights neighborhood. And Newark just got its first boutique hotel. With a rooftop bar, no less. A recent Politico article posed the question, “Is Newark the Next Brooklyn?”
The Halsey Street neighborhood is the border between University Heights with its 60,000 students and the city’s largest commercial and cultural districts. Halsey is at the epicenter of downtown Newark’s revival and a microcosm of the city Newark is becoming.
“Why would these small businesses be here if they didn’t think they had a chance at success? “It’s not just the Rutgers students anymore, whether they’re graduate or undergraduate. It’s business people who are realizing not only we can work in Newark, we can live in Newark.”
-Mark Bonamo, editor of Newark Inc.
Hahne, Halsey and University Heights. A building, a block and a neighborhood in a city under construction. Here’s what it looks like:
Lenzy Hall, owner of Lenzy’s Nutrition Center at 55 Halsey. When Lenzy’s opened 30 years ago, the Hahne building was still a functioning department store. Every morning, Mr. Hall places a speaker on the street in front of his store and tunes his radio to WBGO, Newark’s legendary jazz station (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson / VII Photo)
Ashley Gilbertson, VII photographer, is a core contributor to Newest Americans.
Gareth Smit is a South African freelance photographer currently based in New York City. His images and writing have been published in various South African publications including The Cape Times, The Weekend Argus, The Star and The Cape Argus. Internationally, his photography and videography has appeared in the Associated Press Images wire, Internazionale Magazine, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and The New York Times.
Frank Barcelos is a Filipino-American journalism major at Rutgers University-Newark. As an aspiring writer and photographer, Frank has the desire to impact communities and influence people to live a positive lifestyle, as well as follow their dreams. He believes that in order to be a world-changer, he has to inspire others to be world-changers as well.
Jedd Kristjan Marquez is a Filipino-American Journalism major at Rutgers University-Newark. As a growing photographer and journalist, Jedd tends to view the positivity and beauty through the people he meets, the stories he tells, and the photos he captures. He hopes to one day inspire others to do what they love, just as he was inspired.
Chris Zranchev is a Filipino-Chinese-Bulgarian-