The Wall Street Journal: Viewing Newark as a 'Blank Canvas'

February 10th, 2012

The Wall Street Journal
February 10, 2012
By, Marshall Heyman


Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Eric Schmidt of Google and Nicolas Berggruen of Berggruen Holdings, were on site in Newark, N.J., Thursday for the groundbreaking of Teachers Village, a mixed-use development that will include three charter schools, more than 200 moderately priced apartments for Newark teachers and various retail establishments. Richard Meier, an architect who was born in Newark, devised the plan. The RBH Group is the lead developer.

NEWARK


The groundbreaking of Teachers Village in Newark on Thursday.

Mr. Meier is also working with Mr. Berggruen, a major partner in this project, on the tallest residential tower in Tel Aviv as well as a group of houses in Turkey. Goldman Sachs is an investor in Teachers Village, and Mr. Schmidt is on the board of Mr. Berggruen’s think tank.

For the last six years, Mr. Berggruen said he has been investing in land in downtown Newark. “It was a very prosperous and vibrant city 70 years ago, and then it came into a terrible decline,” he explained, adding the proximity to Manhattan made the location particularly important. “Now Newark is like a blank canvas. You can, in essence, develop a new city. But we are starting from zero. No, less than zero.”

Mr. Berggruen, who rather famously does not keep his own residence and resides solely in hotels, said his interest in developing places like Berlin, Tel Aviv and Los Angeles, where he is also heavily involved in the arts, is “part of being a human being.”

“I love the idea of cities growing and renewing themselves,” he said. “Nothing is more interesting than a city that’s transforming and growing.” This first phase of Newark’s transformation encompasses 400,000 square feet; Mr. Berggruen said there is enough land to develop six million square feet.

“It’s not going to happen in a day,” he said. “But this is the first step.”


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