Working a 9-to-5 job in downtown Newark and then heading home to the suburbs or another urban location is becoming less fashionable.
A new generation of Newark’s office workers, small business owners, and teachers are choosing to also reside in Brick City, enticed by the convenience of living where they work and the compelling value Newark offers compared to other urban locales like Jersey City and New York City. Simultaneously, forward-thinking developers behind a crop of new modern residential buildings in the city are actively courting Newark’s workforce through incentives, community collaborations and onsite activations, giving them every reason to choose to stay in Newark long after the workday ends. For educators, in particular, this presents an opportunity to not only live in close proximity to their workplaces but also to deeply connect with the communities they serve.
Kathiana Cajuste recently moved from West Orange to Newark. She’s been working as an Analyst at PGIM Fixed Income for the last three years, driving to her office in the city’s Prudential Tower. However, she wanted to attend New York Law School in the evenings while continuing to work full-time, an arrangement that would have been too draining if she continued to live in West Orange. She began looking for apartments close to work and to the PATH Train for a quicker commute.
Ms. Cajuste was thrilled to discover Newark offered brand-new apartment buildings with modern interior spaces and amenities that would make her life easier overall. She toured Fifty-Five Union, a new luxury rental property in the charming Ironbound neighborhood and saw that it was perfect for her in every way, especially when they were able to facilitate a quick move-in.
“I walked into the building for the first time and thought this is absolutely beautiful.” Ms. Cajuste said. “This goes above and beyond what you would expect. I feel safe in the building, it’s incredibly clean, and there’s a sense of friendliness between both the residents and staff that makes it very comfortable to live here. I’m so pleased with my decision to make this place my current home as I embark on this new season of my life.”
Attracting more local employees to live in Newark is one of the goals of the Hire. Buy. Live. Newark initiative launched by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. It is a partnership between the City of Newark and the city’s business community, universities, and civic organizations designed to provide full-time living-wage jobs to Newark residents, support the growth of local businesses, attract new residents and provide existing residents with additional rental and homeownership choices and incentives. Private companies are also doing their part. Audible, which moved to Newark in 2007, launched a Live Local program to “provide all Audible employees living in Newark with a $500 a month post-tax subsidy toward their housing expenses.”
The Hire. Buy. Live. Newark initiative specifically mentions faculty and students as new residents it hopes to attract, and Newark’s young teachers are responding.
Ariel LaForest is a third-grade math teacher at a Newark charter school who moved to Newark this summer after living in Manhattan and Queens. As a lifelong New Yorker, she was hesitant to move to New Jersey, but she quickly grew to love the Ironbound area and the people of Newark.
“I feel like Newark is a really digestible city. One thousand percent not as intimidating as New York,” Ms. LaForest said. “You get the best of both worlds living here.”
Ms. LaForest, also a Fifty-Five Union resident, loves exploring the Ironbound and finding new neighborhood restaurants to try, but she describes her commute as one of her favorite parts of the day. It is a one-and-a-half-mile bus ride or light rail ride that takes her through downtown Newark and University Heights while she gazes out the window.
“I say a prayer every day to be thankful that my commute is not insane. I don’t have to wake up super early just to sit in traffic,” Ms. LaForest said. “The bus ride is short and I actually like it because I get to see more of the city and feel more connected to it.”
Fellow teacher Chris Underwood opted to make the move to Newark after living in Jersey City and commuting to North Star Lincoln Park Middle School in Newark every day, where he is an eighth-grade history teacher. He was looking for a location closer to work, but more importantly, he wanted to live somewhere where he could afford his own apartment, without needing a roommate. He selected a studio apartment at Fifty-Five Union.
“Anywhere else I would be sacrificing either convenience or budget,” Mr. Underwood said. “For my price range, Newark was the best option.”
Mr. Underwood doesn’t own a car. His school is within walking distance, but access to mass transit is a must for him. He is a competitive dancer with the Wannabes dance team, and travels frequently for competitions. After dancing for hours, he can walk home from the train station and relax in his apartment instead of trying to catch a transfer while exhausted or taking an expensive Uber ride home. It helps him recharge for the next school day. Returning home and walking through his apartment building’s lobby, with its green living wall and elegant lounge areas, re-energizes him.
“I’m a very vibey person. I feed off of the atmosphere of a place, and I always feel inspired walking through Fifty-Five Union,” Mr. Underwood said. “I love how aesthetically pleasing everything is. For a studio, my apartment is a lot roomier than I thought it was going to be. I’m big on sunlight, and plenty of light comes through the windows which makes the apartment bright and cheerful.”
Fifty-Five Union opened for occupancy in June and offers 403 studio, one- and two-bedroom residences at monthly rental rates starting from $2,000. The property’s developer, J&L Companies, a family-owned and operated real estate company with over a 40-year history based in Newark, reports that approximately one-third of its residents to date work in Newark for companies such as Prudential, Audible, Mars, and United Airlines, as well as NJ TRANSIT, Rutgers, NJIT, several charter schools, and small local businesses, along with some Newark students. The developer extends exclusive offers to Newark teachers and employees, and has collaborated with local artists and galleries, including partnering with Gallery Aferro, Newark’s oldest operating artist-run space, to display works of art from local artists throughout the property.
The concerted effort by Newark’s municipal officials, employers and developers to entice the local workforce to live in Newark is having the desired results. One thing Ms. LaForest noticed when she was touring 55 Union is that many of her fellow apartment hunters were also charter school teachers.
“I don’t know why that is, but I think that is really cool,” Ms. LaForest said. “Sometimes you can have a rough day teaching. It helps coming home to a nice place that is pleasing on the eyes.”
Fifty-Five Union’s onsite leasing center is located at 55 Union Street. For more information and to arrange a visit to tour the property’s furnished model homes and amenity spaces, visit www.55UnionNewark.com or call 973-803-1256.