NEWARK, NJ – Officials in the Newark Public Schools District have paved the way for a new vocational engineering high school of architecture and design to be built in the East Ward.

District officials held a public hearing on Friday and signed a $ 160 million lease for the School of Architecture and Interior Design, due to open in 2022. The school will be located at 155 Jefferson St., the site of the former St. James Hospital in Newark’s Ironbound. The hospital has been largely empty since it closed in 2008.

The lease will cost between $ 3 million and $ 5 million per year and could run for 20 years. At that point, the district would have an option to renovate or buy the building, according to Jason Ballard, the district’s assistant school economist.

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“This is a deal like no other that we’ve really seen,” said Ballard.

During a financial analysis of the lease at Friday’s meeting, Ballard said the principal cost of the lease will total $ 130 million. Other costs include utility costs of $ 5.72 million and operating costs of $ 22.5 million.

The old building of St. James Hospital could be given new life by the district’s plan to create a technical college that offers courses in architecture, computer-aided design, and civil engineering in addition to specializing in traditional professions such as plumbing, electrical engineering, and HVAC.

Not only will the curriculum allow students to take courses in architecture and design, but it will also allow students to choose the school’s trading programs, according to district officials. Students who decide to study craftsmanship work during their training with the local craftsmen in a practical manner.

“It’s an outrageous initiative,” said Roger León, superintendent of Newark Public Schools.

Given the abundance of students in many of its schools, including the East Side High School which has more than 2,000 students, the new building could offer some relief.

“I think that was long overdue in the East Ward. We have East Side High School which is super crowded, ”said board member Josephine Garcia during a meeting in February. “This will definitely help alleviate the pain for the families in this ward who have tried every year to enroll more and more students. It’s going to be a great program. ”

Enrollment forecasts for the school’s expected opening next year are aimed at 240 students with two groups of 120 students and 16 teachers. Officials said they plan to increase enrollment every year. Final enrollment in 2025 is estimated at 960 students in eight groups of 120 students and more than 60 teachers.

The St. James property is one of several Newark hospitals that have closed over the past two decades. St. James, Columbus Hospital in the North Ward and Saint Michael’s Medical Center in the Central Ward were part of Cathedral Health Systems, an affiliate of the Archdiocese of Newark.

When Catholic Health East bought the three hospitals, both Columbus and St. James were closed while St. Michaels Hospital continued to operate. Plans to maintain some form of health care operation in St. James failed over the years and the hospital remained largely empty.

“[The hospital] sat abandoned in the center of the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark City and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to transform this incredible building into a once in a lifetime opportunity for our students, ”said León.