By David Cruz
It takes a village to build a Teachers Village and today they all came together — with marching bands and steppers in the shadow of downtown — to celebrate the opening of phase 1 of the ambitious project to transform part of Newark into an oasis where students and teachers can learn and live.
“What you’ve done for us is give us this warm learning environment,” said Great Oaks Charter School math teacher Edward Gibbs. “We see it in our children. I get here at 6:15 every morning and there are students sitting on their book-bags just waiting for school to open and we don’t even open til 7. We see the difference in how they carry themselves. We see the pride in the building.”
Teachers Village is designed to be a 24-hour community, with three charter schools and a pre-school for local kids, apartments for their teachers and retail for everyone else. Officials said the economic implications can’t be overstated.
“When this project is complete, there will be 220 units of new housing that will be targeted to teachers,” estimated Newark Deputy Mayor Adam Zipkin. “There will be three new charter schools, a new pre-school and 70,000 square feet of new retail space, so all of the buildings at street level will have new restaurants and new shops.”
Newark Business Administrator Julian Neals said Teachers Village is a model for other cities to emulate. “You start bringing together a lot of different opportunities, not just geared towards high end, or middle income or low income, but where it’s geared towards all of them,” he said, “so you can get an equal amount of service levels where you wouldn’t necessarily see that in certain income areas, so that’s a vast potential. I think it’s the wave of the future, especially to make urban centers what they need to be.”
School kids provided some of the entertainment before the ceremonies today but it is a school day and they had work to do inside, although all the politicians and corporate heads and even a few protesters had to provide a close-up glimpse of the panoply of life in Brick City — and maybe some kind of lesson on teamwork.
“This project created over 400 to 500 construction jobs when it’s all done. It’ll create 400 to 500 permanent jobs when it’s done. It is a project that will yield to the city of Newark at a time of tough budgets — hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from parking revenue to property tax,” Booker said.
For a man so prone to hyperbole, Booker was understated today, but as legacy projects go, Teachers Village is hard to beat. Where once were parking lots and blight, a community is actually starting to take root.