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News 12 New Jersey: Developers mark milestone at Newark’s RockPlaza Lofts

News 12: Rock Lofts opening in downtown newark

For the developers of RockPlaza Lofts, that promise is well on its way to being fulfilled.

The opening of the Prudential Center in 2007 came with the promise of sparking new activity in the surrounding blocks, a key piece of the effort to revive Newark.

The $38 million redevelopment project marked a major milestone Thursday with the opening of 48 loft-style apartments on Market Street, the last of 78 units completed during more than two years of work. Its developers, a joint venture of Fidelco Realty Group and Hanini Group, joined local officials to highlight the new units and new retailers that they say are creating a neighborhood around the arena.

Marc Berson, Fidelco’s chairman, said building the units in multiple phases across several properties allowed the developers to improve their plans along the way. More importantly, though, it helped them realize the “just how important mass is” in planning for the big picture.

“It’s not just about how beautiful or how effective we can make a single building,” Berson said. “It was about creating change to an area.”

RockPlaza Lofts, a major rehabilitation of several historic buildings, makes up a piece of the growing development around the Prudential Center. It joins the nearby Courtyard by Marriott hotel opened by Tucker Development Corp. in fall 2012, and Hanini is nearing completion on a new Indigo hotel at Broad Street and Edison Place.

The new lofts include features such as brick walls, open kitchens, high ceilings and exposed ductwork, meeting the demand for a product that Berson said hasn’t existed in Newark. That’s been validated by the leasing activity for the first 38 units and what he said is strong demand for the newest phase.

The developers also feel they’re making equal strides with RockPlaza’s retail component, which totals 34,000 square feet in the area bounded by Market Street, Mulberry Street and Edison Place. The project since 2012 has been home to the popular Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and recently attracted national retailers such as Chipotle, the first in the Brick City.

“Market Street by itself isn’t the lone attraction — it’s always a combination,” Berson said, noting that one ingredient is the population from the arena. “The number of people has a lot to do with the comfort zone.”

Fidelco and Hanini are still completing and filling portions of the retail space, but he expects those spaces to feed off the growing neighborhood and the connections to the city’s business district and other amenities.

“There’s community-building and a clientele building that’s incredible,” Berson said.