NEWARK, NJ – The Newark Zoning Board on Thursday turned down a petitioner’s proposal to expand a closed liquor store on Washington Street, which met opposition from many residents and a city council member.
JIA Estate LLC was looking for a deviation to expand an existing non-compliant liquor store at 441-443 Washington St. to include additional storage and facility modernization. However, the property is in the Lincoln Park Redevelopment Area, where officials said liquor stores are not allowed.
The plaintiff proposed that the neglected building, which had been vacant for years, be converted into a liquor store mainly focused on the sale of wine.
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“Part of this project is to revitalize it and really make it a shining light on this corner,” said the applicant’s architect, Allende Matos. “We want to do a project that harmonizes with the zone and actually enhances this rather shabby area.”
However, many residents rejected the idea of a liquor store coming into the Central Ward, claiming it would spark crime.
During a public comment, Central Ward Councilor LaMonica McIver voiced her opposition to the project, saying it would put the station on a backward path to positive redevelopment.
“[This application] is a disregard and disrespect to us in Newark City for what we have asked for [the applicant]”Said McIver. “We know the reality of what is happening here in Newark City. We know what we are charged with, we know what we are currently dealing with. We are in the midst of the cleansing of many of our communities for places like liquor stores, drugs, crime, and murder … This liquor store has been closed for many years and when it was open it was a disaster. “
“To honestly look at those of us who live, were born and raised here and know what this would mean for our community – please understand that with your consent you are talking about violence, drug trafficking, possible deaths, robberies, people, who don’t want to come to this area that you think will attract them, ”said one resident.
Prior to the complainant’s application, the former No. 1 All Brother Liquors store was on the corner of Washington and West Kinney Streets, but was largely empty for years when the Central Ward built up around the store.
The property is within walking distance of Teachers Village on Washington Street, which broke ground in 2012 and comprises eight buildings, including three charter schools and more than 200 apartments.
It is also near a previously approved project called “Vibe – The Tower at Halsey and William,” which consists of 243 marketable units, 27 affordable units, two restaurants and 156 parking spaces and other amenities at 16-24; 26-30; and 32-34 William St.
In March, city officials approved a third, 40-story residential tower for the Halo development project on William Street, previously approved by city planners for two towers in 2018. Once built, the additional tower will increase the total units on the property to 952 residential units with a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments and other social facilities.
That same week, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced the launch of the affordable Kawaida Towers housing estate, which will bring 66 units downtown.
After hours of testimony and public comment, the building committee filed a motion to deny approval of the application and voted in favor.
“The Lincoln Park neighborhood specifically excludes liquor stores – and to expand this liquor store – is really against our zoning plan and does not obey our ordinances as required,” said Charles Auffant, chairman of the zoning board. “That is why I consider it inappropriate to expand a no longer permitted use in this area.”
“It is insincere for anyone to come here and testify and tell me that my town needs more liquor stores to justify opening a ‘wine library’ in my town,” said Julius Montford, vice chairman of the zoning board. “If I were to vote on this enlargement, I would be basically saying, ‘Forget what the people in this neighborhood want. Let the liquor store come back. ‘”