“In 1992, me and my mother were visiting relatives, and my mother says to me, ‘I remember when the city used to be beautiful, somebody needs to come by and invest in the city and make it beautiful again. Then, she gave me that big elbow to the chest like I’m that somebody ,” said Newark native and NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.
O’Neal is making good on that nudge. He returned home to celebrate the topping off, that is, the completing of the top floor of his 20-some-story, 168-market-rate apartment and retail building on Rector Street.
The governor thanked O’Neal for never forgetting where he came from, and for helping Newark reach its potential.
“This city is on the rise. Let there be no doubt about it,” said Murphy.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says it takes partners.
“Without state support and state help, most of these projects that we see in the city of Newark don’t go up. It is a great day when you get to collaborate to actually have buildings happening and not just groundbreakings,” said Baraka.
The mayor and Goldman Sachs, which helped to finance the tower and a city movie theater a few years ago, said Newark is attractive to deep-pocket investors.
“What it taught us is that you want to work with partners who are not just going to do the glassy towers downtown, but also are willing to do the projects that are in the communities,” said Margaret Anadu, managing director of the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs.
For Newark, this is not just about a celebrity-owned building going up in downtown. For the city, it says this is about creating careers and opportunities for folks who are from Newark.
With the building, O’Neal and the city launched Project Newark modeled after Project IMPACT.
“That program is to give a helping hand to women, minorities and veterans looking to get a career in the construction trade,” said Bill O’Dea, Hudson County Freeholder and founder of Project IMPACT.
They’re not just opportunities for workers, but for the developers of the project, as well.
“So, I found a partner in the Boraie Group, the Kobe Bryant of development,” said O’Neal.
“We are so proud, that even though this is the first high-rise in Newark in 50 years, what it really represents is 50 years of progress, because 50 years ago, someone that looks like me and my family, the people who work on our project, lenders like Margaret and Sherry, it was a different group of people doing these projects 50 years ago, and that’s progress,” said Wasseem Boraie, vice president of Boraie Development.
Shaq Towers offers spectacular views of the area, across the Hudson to Manhattan, and up the Passaic. O’Neal announced another $150 million, 35-story building of 350 market-rate apartments on McCarter Highway, and a business mogul who plans to occupy the top floor.
“On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you’ll find me up here, and Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ll be up here, in this area right here,” said O’Neal.