The RBH Group developed the Teachers Village project in Newark, which provides apartments for teachers, schools and retail space. RBH Group CEO Ron Beit told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider he’s proud of the work that’s already been done and looks forward to the future.
“Just 18 months ago it was vacant parking lots and dilapidated buildings. And in 18 months we’ve delivered our first two buildings and got 1,000 children into the schools so it was a very proud moment to see all of the children out there festive today and all of our great partners coming to celebrate with us,” Beit said.
According to Beit, the biggest challenge has been having multiple buildings across several city blocks. “You have enough complication with one building. Adding seven more buildings to that adds a layer of complication,” he said.
It was difficult to get the financing for the project because it had been 50 years since there was new residential construction in Newark, according to Beit. He said most people thought the group was crazy for wanting to undertake the project, “but then we were lucky to find the group of people that believed in the project and had the fortitude and the ability to get it done.”
Beit said once people understood that the project could be a catalyst for a great economic development project, it became easier to get support.
“People bought into the idea that we needed scale, that we had to build this community overnight. And so the scale was necessary so that we weren’t building an island in and of itself and by transforming these numerous city blocks in one broad stroke was something that became very appealing to everyone,” Beit said.
Teachers Village is rehabilitating a neglected corridor in Newark, according to Beit. But he said the building has been done within the historic corridor, fiber and context of the neighborhood.
The support of political leaders Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker has been important for the project, Beit said. “Without the great leadership of the city of Newark and the state of New Jersey, these players don’t come to the table. It’s an overall perception that something is going on that invites these types of investors,” he said.
Beit said more than 100,000 square feet of schools are fully leased and retail leasing is ahead of what was projected.
“We went out to existing Newark businesses that knew Newark and knew the market — existing regional businesses that knew the market and attracted them and captivated them and brought them in and creating really a unique ecosystem for retailing in downtown Newark,” he said. “And in terms of the residences, we have a dedicated demand of approximately 6,000 to 8,000 teachers depending on what year — real dedicated demand. And they’re all eager for such a product, eager to live in a community, to be able to socialize and exchange ideas with one another and really be celebrated.”