by Jackson Lord
It’s Newark’s first high-rise apartment building in more than 50 years. And it has a name attached to it that is sure to be familiar to sports fans: Shaquille O’Neal.
The NBA Hall of Famer and Newark native joined elected officials and stakeholders for a “top-off” ceremony at 1 Rector Street, colloquially dubbed “Shaq Tower.” The ceremony symbolically completed the major construction project, which is located in the city’s downtown area.
When completed, Shaq Tower will have a million square feet of space, 169 rental units, as well as ground-floor retail space, city officials said.
O’Neal says he wants to invest in things that make a difference in the city.
The ceremony included appearances from Governor Phil Murphy, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Acting Deputy Mayor and Director of Economic and Housing Development Carmelo Garcia, Boraie Development, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group Managing Director and Urban Investment Group head Margaret Anadu.
O’Neal endorsed Murphy during his 2017 gubernatorial campaign, while records from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission show that members of the Boraie family have donated heavily to Garden State Democratic politicians, including Murphy and then-Mayor Cory Booker’s ticket, over the years.
Although the development was revealed nearly a decade ago and there was a groundbreaking in 2013, construction did not begin at the site until the spring of 2017, following the demolition of Science High School. Initially, the former public school and factory, which had long sat vacant near the Center Street/NJPAC Light Rail Station, was supposed to be the base of the new $65 million tower. Developer Wasseem Boraie even told The New York Times that doing so “would make for the ‘dramatic metaphor’ of a sleek modern tower rising from a historic brick foundation wall.”
The $79 million complex is slated open by the end of the year. Residents may be able to apply for a lease as soon as September, Wasseem Boraie told NJ Advance Media.
The project is a public-private partnership between the state, the city of Newark, O’Neal, New Brunswick-based Boraie Development and the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, and received a $24 million New Jersey Department of Economic Development Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit, NJBiz.com reported.
O’Neal also announced future plans to invest in a $150 million, 35-story building on McCarter Highway, a one-two combo that he hopes will help revitalize his hometown’s real estate landscape.
“In 1992, me and my mother were visiting some relatives and my mother said to me, ‘I remember when this city used to be beautiful, somebody needs to come by and invest in this city and make it beautiful again.'” the basketball legend said during Tuesday’s ceremony. “She gave me an elbow to the chest like I’m that somebody.