NEWARK --If developer Joe Sardar has his way, a 26-story hotel will rise above the Military Park Commons Historic District.
The new hotel would be three doors down from the city's best-known hotel, the Robert Treat, and around the corner from a new TRYP by Wyndham hotel being redeveloped at the old St. Francis Hotel.
The hotel proposed by Sardar would be the latest development project at Military Park, joining the glass Prudential Financial tower across Broad Street and One Theater Square, a 22-story apartment tower at the eastern end of Park Place.
The hotel would be walking distance to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the Prudential Center arena, and Newark Penn Station.
Sardar will have to gain approval from the Newark Landmarks & Historic Preservation Commission, as well as some wary neighbors on Park Place. The neighbors include public radio station, WBGO which would be subject construction noise for what officials said would be at least 18 months.
"We're going to make everyone happy," Sardar told commissioners. "Trust me."
The project, which needs a variance allowing fewer parking spaces than required by the city, will still have to be granted planning board approval, according to Sardar's lawyer, Jennifer Carillo-Perez.
Because the site is within the historic district, the historic preservation commission's approval is also needed, and Carillo-Perez said her client will wait to file its planning board application until after it receives approval from the commission.
The Military Park Commons Historic District includes:
- 6-acre Military Park, which dates back to the 17th Century as a military training ground,
- The New Jersey Historical Society, housed in a 1926 building also on the historic registers
- The 1964 Robert Treat Best Western Hotel and the 1916 Robert Treat Center, an office building in the original hotel structure
- The Military Park Building, a 1925 brick skyscraper on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
The Robert Treat Hotel, Robert Treat Center, the Military Park Building, and the TRYP hotel on East Park Street, are all owned by the Berger Organization, headed by Miles Berger.
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The historic commission chairman, Richard Partyka, along with Commissioner Robert Hartman, urged Sardar to meet with Berger and other neighbors to gain their support for the hotel.
The building would tower above the 165-foot Robert Treat Center to a height just about level with the 266-foot Military Park Building.
Only then, Partyka said, would the commission move to consider issues like the aesthetic and noise impact of the project, possibly at the board's next meeting July 12.
"I think before we can proceed anywhere with those, you need to get letters of support from your neighbors," Partyka told Sardar and his team.
Speaking briefly outside the City Council Chamber after his appearance before the commission Wednesday night, Sardar said he was in talks with several hotel chains, though he did not have an agreement with any.
He said he was currently developing a hotel in Flatbush, Brooklyn, to be operated by the Choice Hotels chain as part of its Ascend Collection.
Sardar, who said he had no projects in Newark, declined to discuss the hotel's estimated cost or its financing.
The proposed hotel's exterior of glass and steel would stand in contrast to the rest of the block's existing buildings, which are all red brick. Most are the Georgian architectural style common to downtown Newark buildings of the early 20th Century.
But in a nod to the district's existing architecture, Sardar and his architect, Anthony Villano, have proposed retaining the existing red brick facade of 56 Park Place, a single-story structure occupied by law offices, which the hotel would replace.
The hotel would also replace a building immediately west of the law offices, another one-story brick structure once occupied by a bar painted white with a black glass window. Sardar would replace that building's facade with the hotel entrance.
Immediately east of the hotel site is a two-story brick building occupied by the offices and studios of WBGO, and east of that, the five-story Historical Society building. Commissioners were concerned with how construction noise from a project likely to take at least 18 months would impact the station.
So were WBGO Trustee Karl Piirimae and President and CEO Amy Niles, who both attended Wednesday's meeting and addressed the commission.
Niles questioned the need for a third hotel in area. And Piirimae, a lawyer with the firm Windels Marx, said the proposed structure would "change the character of the neighborhood."
Writen by Steve Strunsky of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com