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New Development Rising Where Newark’s Brick Towers Once Stood

JerseyDigs.com September 7, 2018

The old Brick Towers site in Newark’s Central Ward will soon be home to hundreds of people again.

A project called Aston Heights is under construction at 685-715 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The development, which is being built by Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties in conjunction with the Newark Housing Authority (NHA), is the second phase of the larger Montgomery Heights complex. It is slated to be up to five stories tall, according to a rendering from Pennrose, and include 154 units with 7,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor. 59 of the units will contain one bedroom while 70 will include two bedrooms and 25 will be three-bedroom apartments. All of the units will be rentals while some will be designated as NHA “affordable housing” apartments.

Aston Heights is expected to be completed in December, according to a Pennrose representative, with leasing estimated to begin in October.

Before they were both torn down in 2008, each of the two buildings that made up Brick Towers were 16 stories tall and offered views of the New York Metropolitan Area. Built in 1969, the complex, described by Esquire Magazine as “one of Newark’s nastiest human warehouses,” made headlines for being home to Senator Cory Booker from right after he moved to Newark until shortly after his first mayoral term began. Following the demolition, the site remained vacant until construction began last year, despite plans for a completed project by 2011. Approvals were granted by the Newark Central Planning Board in 2016.

This development comes amid other possible changes in the neighborhood surrounding what was once known as High Street. In addition to the upcoming Makers Mansion complex in and around the old Krueger-Scott Mansion, Victor Cirillo of the NHA told Jersey Digs that the abandoned High/Spruce apartments, a five-story complex with boarded-up windows at 730-736 and 738-744 MLK Boulevard, was recently sold by the agency following a Request for Proposals for residential development at the site. Plus, the mysterious Ramsey-based company behind the five proposed high-rises throughout the city and the adaptive reuse of several Downtown buildings recently bought the Coe Mansion property at 698-700 MLK Boulevard.

High-rise brick complexes like Brick Towers used to dot the streets of the Central Ward and even led to Newark being nicknamed “Brick City.” However, like Brick Towers, nearly all of these housing projects were demolished, including the NHA-owned Hayes Homes, Scudder Homes, Stella Wright Homes, and the Christopher Columbus Homes. The buildings that make up the massive privately owned Ivy Hill Park Apartments complex in the West Ward are among the only remaining brick high-rises in Newark to slightly resemble the edifices that once could be found throughout the city.

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