The James Street Commons Historic District in Newark, New Jersey comprises twenty-two blocks in the residential and cultural center of the city. The area was once home to Newark’s founders and was the city’s first ward. It also contains the oldest commons in the city, Washington Park. In a series of rulings issued last month, the State Historic Preservation Office delayed the demolition of four properties within this historic district.
In the ruling, SHPO denied the New Jersey Institute of Technology‘s permit to raze four buildings within the district. The ruling, however, is conditional; NJIT must come before the review board and present its redevelopment plan once more.
The university, which intersects with the historic district, has a history of attempting to demolish buildings within the James Street Historic District. NJIT submitted plans to raze six buildings in a previous application, two of which were eventually demolished. Despite this track record, local preservation activists believe that the most recent SHPO ruling may shift the university’s attitude towards the historic district. Activists argue that the university’s development goals can be aligned with preservation. The delay gives preservation advocates time to negotiate with NJIT and create a plan that meets the community’s goals.
Emily Manz, executive director of Preservation New Jersey, told Jersey Digs, “Preservation advocates are walking in lockstep with the goals of NJIT and they need to be included in the future.”