Office of Community Affairs
Economic and Community Development Initiatives
In conjunction with four colleges and universities in Newark that comprise the Council for Higher Education in Newark (CHEN)‚ the Department has been instrumental in the development of the University Heights area in Newark’s Central Ward. This major revitalization project has resulted in the formation of University Heights Science Park, which includes plans for new homes‚ commercial development‚ and economic opportunities for city residents‚ as well as an improved image for the city. This historical project is often referenced as an example of the role institutions of higher learning can have in urban revitalization and neighborhood development.
A Force for Urban Progress: The University Heights Story
Universities and colleges represent enormous resources for the betterment of urban communities. The University Heights neighborhood in Newark offers such an example. Co-existing with four college campuses (boasting 40,000 students, faculty and staff) and many other anchors such as a county government complex and two hospitals, the surrounding University Heights neighborhood was desperately poor, blighted, without a supermarket and other basic neighborhood services. The 700 acres of land that comprise University Heights forms a strategically located neighborhood that rises above downtown Newark, enclosing Essex County College, Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and UMDNJ.
The universities (working cooperatively as the CHEN) recognized the lack of restaurants, suitable housing for employees and other amenities were obstacles when trying to attract students and faculty to the area. The neighborhood’s poverty rate, illiteracy, crime, weed-filled lots and other ills provided a disheartening contrast to the university campuses. Disinvestment had left abundant vacant land on the periphery of the university campuses. The challenge was to develop these areas to serve the needs of both the day-time workforce and neighborhood residents, increase area job opportunities, and generally improve the neighborhood.
Over a two-year period, the universities worked collectively with community residents and representatives of other neighborhood anchors to produce a development plan for the area. State government provided important seed grant support for a process to encourage and channel community participation in this development initiative. Media attention began to focus more on the neighborhood’s potential for development. Private developer interest was peaked and eventually major investments were made. The universities coordinated the neighborhood’s anchors in this process, provided technical support to developers and assisted community organizations to monitor and affect the outcomes of the development.
Today, regional highway signs direct commuters to Newark’s University Heights neighborhood. In the heart of the neighborhood, replacing land that was generally vacant and garbage strewn, is the 900 unit Society Hill town house complex, built by New Jersey’s largest homebuilder. The University Heights development process has spurred the construction of additional housing for low and moderate-income home buyers. A 66-unit condominium complex was developed through the University Heights Neighborhood Development Corporation, a non-profit corporation created by CHEN and governed by university and community representatives. And, commercial development has also been attracted to the neighborhood, providing needed services and jobs for area residents.
The next stage of development in University Heights, in the form of creating a Science Park, is based on harnessing science and technology as a force for urban and regional economic development. Urban science parks build upon the existing strengths of universities and hospitals to overcome the negative factors that inhibit the redevelopment of urban areas. Science parks provide the environment for partnerships to develop between universities, industry and government. The sharing of new scientific and physical facilities in close proximity to university-based research can result in significant technology transfer. The linking of promising research to commercialization will be a catalyst for the continued revitalization of Newark, and enhance regional economic growth.
Science Park, Inc.
The University Heights Science Park (UHSP) is a collaborative venture between Newark’s higher education institutions, the City and Community of Newark, and private industry. It is designed as a 50 acre, mixed-use, science and technology park in the city’s Central Ward, adjacent to the Park’s four higher education sponsors. When fully developed, the Science Park will generate $300 million of construction, 5,000 direct and indirect construction jobs, and more than 6,000 direct and indirect permanent jobs with an annual payroll of $275 million, and $4 million of new real estate taxes.
The first two Science Park buildings were completed in the Fall 1996 providing administrative space for Park offices, industrial liaison laboratories for the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials and Medical Devices, and 30,000 square feet of business incubation space that is home to seventeen technology start-up companies. Although all technology companies are welcome in Science Park, recruiting is focused on four technology clusters, reflecting the research strengths of the sponsoring universities: Biosciences and Biotechnology; Information and Communications Technology; Environmental and Energy Technology; and Advanced Manufacturing Technology.
Education is an important part of the comprehensive Science Park Master Plan, along with the provision of affordable housing, ancillary retail development, and day care services to complement the neighborhood’s economic development.
University Heights Science Park High School
Adjacent to UMDNJ's Newark campus (corner of Norfolk and Market Streets) is Science Park High School, one of the first beneficiaries of a major state capital program under the auspices of the New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation (NJSCC) to build innovative schools across the state. Developed in partnership with Newark Public Schools and University Heights Science Park, the School will help to create a pipeline toward educating a scientific and technical workforce in Newark that can participate effectively in the regional and global economy.