By Briana Vannozzi
It’s got everything a developer would want — its own light rail stop, a major train station just a block away, an international airport nearby and major corporations and universities at its fingertips.
So it seemed only natural when the old Riverfront Stadium property was thrown into the mix as a potential spot for a North Jersey casino.
“This is a huge site and a site that’s been underutilized for a long period of time,” said Newark Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Baye Adofo-Wilson.
After three years of sitting vacant the city of Newark announced this week the stadium property is sold for $23.5 million. A developer wants to demolish it and build a high rise and hotel, not a casino.
“First of all, the people got to decide come December whether we’ll have a casino or not. And then we’re going to have to compete,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
“It put the property back on the tax bowl, it’s a really exciting project. It’s going to create hundreds if not thousands of jobs, it goign to increase our ratables and make our city more prosperous,” Adofo-Wilson said.
Riverfront was just one on a list of potential spots for a casino complex.
“I believe we have got a great site in Newark right outside the Prudential arena. We already have 25 acres there and I believe it’s the right place for a casino,” DiVincenzo said.
The sale includes the stadium — home to the now defunct Newark Bears baseball team — and nearly eight acres of land. The mayors office says New York-based developer, Lotus Equity Group, has plans for residential and commercial units.
“We don’t have a lot of projects in Newark that sell for $20 million plus. It’s prime real estate with a developer with a vision for a thousand units of housing, which also isn’t what’s happening normally in Newark. So, it defiantly shows that the Newark real estate market has turned a corner and that it’s growing by leaps and bounds,” Adofo-Wilson said.
A casino could be still in the cards at the sight. Newark’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development says interested firms can lobby the new buyer.
“It’s a significant project with multiple phases. We’re really interested and hoping the project moves quickly over the next year,” Adofo-Wilson said.
There are few exact details being released as plans are still being formulated for this future mixed-use space. The developer turned down our interview request saying they’ll talk once the sale is final.