By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
On the fifth floor patio of his new office building, the Prudential chairman John Strangfeld shows Sen. Cory Booker and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno what it looks like.
“This is extraordinary. This is a vision made manifest,” said Booker.
For years Prudential has dominated the Newark skyline from its headquarters on Broad Street.
Now it has expanded two blocks south into a gleaming new 20-story glass office tower.
The interiors are sleek and handsome. The design is said to be environmentally friendly.
“We’re trying to go over the top in terms of creativity not in terms of gaudiness and that sort of thing. You’ll be the judge of this as well. But we’re very, very pleased with how that came out,” said Stranfeld.
They cut the ribbon this morning, although the building opened two months ago.
“I mean, if Starbucks left the first time, sometimes things come and they don’t take hold. Everything is taking hold now,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
“From the Hoover Dam to the Empire State Building, there were people in the worst of times that had the greatest of visions. Well, this building now to me , I feel like it is our Empire State Building for Newark,” Booker said.
Prudential has been in Newark for 140 years but needed to expand somewhere.
“Our headquarters is two blocks away. And we were contending with how to plan for our very long-term space needs. And we had certain space at Gateway Center and we also had employment growth. We concluded what we needed to do, was to build a new building to accommodate more than 2,000 employees in a new physical setting in an environment where they could be more collaborative in some of the new areas of business that we’re pursuing. I wouldn’t get into where else we looked, but we concluded this is the right place for us,” said Stranfeld.
“I was saying earlier, it represents a new era in the city,” said Baraka.
The liberal advocacy group New Jersey Policy Perspective says the project has benefited from $211 million in state tax incentives, or $86,000 per new job created.
NJPP says Prudential is obligated to create 400 new jobs, but is just transferring 2,450 employees a few blocks or a few miles.
“The return on investment is about $200 million over 25 years for the tax payers not just of Newark, but of New Jersey. So you’re going to see it’s a benefit for everyone,” said Guadagno.
“This is going to have a multiplier effect that’s going to return to the taxpayer tremendous benefits,” Booker said.
The critics and defenders of tax incentives will rarely see eye to eye. What’s inarguable is that to the naked eye an impressive new office tower has gone up in downtown Newark for the first time in a long time.