NEWARK, N.J.--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--Eighteen months after breaking ground on Teachers Village, the mixed-use development featuring new school buildings, housing for educators, street-level retail and a complete transformation of a large swath of Newark’s downtown, developer RBH Group has delivered and officially opened the first two buildings.
“without whom, Teachers Village would be a great idea but nothing more.”
Having transformed empty parking lots into school buildings impeccably designed to foster education, RBH celebrated the official opening of the first portion of Teachers Village today with speeches by Gov. Chris Christie; Newark Mayor Cory Booker; CEO of Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Esta Stecher; and Prudential CEO John Strangfeld. Ron Beit, founder and CEO of RBH Group, welcomed the speakers and other dignitaries in attendance, and served as master of ceremonies.
In keeping with Teachers Village’s theme of live-work-play for students and educators, RBH hosted a students’ festival, where students engaged in performance art, learned about the design and construction of school buildings from the project’s architects and builders, and played some spirited basketball.
“They say it takes an entire village to raise a child,” Beit said after the event. “At Teachers Village, we know it takes a wide, deep partnership to build a new village that will successfully raise many children. Without the help of the schools themselves, the city, county and state governments, the general public, our financial partners and investors, and our designers, engineers, architects and builders, this project would not have gotten done. We are grateful beyond words to every group and individual that contributed to the effort. We all have invested a lot, and Newark is about to reap the rewards of that investment.
“Eighteen months ago, this was a vacant parking lot. Today, two brand new buildings house three schools and a day-care center, which are already infusing the area with vitality and energy. Today, you see three new housing sites under construction and over the next few months you will see over 200 units of workforce housing for Newark-based teachers. And we are well underway in bringing in exciting retail options to support the students, teachers, staff, parents and the overall Newark community who are breathing life back into this neighborhood.”
Beit acknowledged the project’s investors and financial partners, “without whom, Teachers Village would be a great idea but nothing more.” Nicolas Berggruen, BRT Realty Trust, Federick Iseman and Steel Partners were among the early entrepreneurs who made this project happen, and financial partners included the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, Prudential, TD Bank, New Jersey Community Capital, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the City of Newark and Brick City Development Corporation.
Joanna Belcher, founder and school leader of SPARK Academy, which along with Discovery Charter School, Great Oaks Charter Schools and CHEN School leases school space at Teachers Village, said the new surroundings – designed by Richard Meier and Partners and KSS Architects, and built by Phelps Construction Group – are conducive to learning and productivity.
“Having a building like this makes a huge difference in how students and teachers feel about their school, and how they feel makes a huge difference in teaching and learning,” Belcher said. “We have motivated teachers, staff and students, but that motivation is greatly enhanced by how the buildings were designed and built. Our goal is to provide a world-class education to our children in Newark, and we’re so thankful that Teachers Village provides the kind of beautiful home and learning environment that kids deserve.”
“Today is an important milestone for the students, teachers, and entire downtown Newark community,” said Stecher, of Goldman Sachs. “Five years ago, we partnered with the city, state, development team, and community partners to dramatically transform a neglected stretch of Newark’s downtown. Today, we recognize the completion of the first school buildings but more importantly we celebrate the beginning of a tremendous opportunity for the young future leaders of Newark.”
Iseman said: “When I first heard about this project, I quickly joined Ron Beit and my dear friend Nicolas Berggruen in support of it and Cory Booker's larger vision for Newark. The completion of this extraordinary educational community development marks another critical step in revitalizing downtown Newark. Teachers Village will have a positive impact on this community for generations. I am proud to be a part of it.”
"The opening of Teachers Village marks another important milestone in the revitalization of Newark," said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential. "This investment is part of Prudential's long-standing commitment to the city. In total, our current investments in Newark will support over 1,000 new residential units, 200 new hotel rooms, 22 acres of open space, and leverage over $1 billion in current and new development activities in the city. We look forward to continuing to contribute to the city's resurgence."
Berggruen, founder and president of Berggruen Holdings and an eponymous think tank that addresses governance issues, called Teachers Village "a fairly rare example of a project that bridges the gap between fiscal sense for all concerned and tremendous benefit to the community. I am so pleased to have worked on this project, especially when I see its effect on downtown Newark. I truly believe that what our team has accomplished here can be replicated elsewhere, resulting in an even larger societal good."
“TD Bank’s Commercial Real Estate Group is proud to be a financial partner in the Teachers Village development project, and to support the exciting revitalization of this downtown neighborhood,” said Gregg Gerken, head of U.S. commercial real estate lending for TD Bank. “Our commitment to this project reflects our vision of a bright future for Newark, and it certainly aligns with our overall goal as a company to support positive development in the communities where we do business.”
“Teachers Village is a shining example of what happens when an ambitious vision and big plans meet a group of committed leaders, partners and community members,” said Mayor Booker. “From classrooms for students and apartments for teachers, to shopping for residents and business opportunities for entrepreneurs, this historic development will transform the neighborhood and empower our community. Today I’m proud to celebrate the completion of four new Newark schools, where the promise of Newark’s future will be nurtured and the next generation of leaders will discover their potential.”
“Eighteen months ago, I stood here for the groundbreaking of this Newark Teachers Village complex, and I’m proud to be back today for the official ribbon cutting of this facility that will improve the quality of education for children in Newark,” said Governor Christie. “This complex is a direct result of reaching across the aisle and working together in a bipartisan manner to change the landscape of Newark and enhance opportunities for city residents. I congratulate and thank everyone who made this collaborative and innovative vision a reality.”
Beit said he views Newark’s Teachers Village as both a catalyst for further development in the city and also a model for how other urban areas might designate locations where teachers congregate to live, work, shop, enjoy recreation and immerse themselves in a culture of education.
“The concept of live-work-play is appealing to educators and other professionals, and I envision this being a model for other developments like it across the nation,” Beit said. “Successful urban development requires all three food groups to succeed – commercial, which here is uniquely represented by the schools; residential; and retail – and Teachers Village is a prime example of that.”