The star of the CBS action series The Equalizer appeared at the groundbreaking ceremony in the South Ward district of Brick City on Tuesday (April 27th) which was led by BlueSugar Corp., a development company that the rapper and actress is co-president of. The other companies involved in the project are Life Assets Development and GonSosa Development. “I grew up around here playing in West Side Park, a block away,” Latifah said during her speech at the ceremony. “My grandfather’s hardware store was blocks from here. I drove past this block. I saw what was needed on this block, houses that weren’t lived in. Some were really dilapidated, and so I thought, ‘Why not here?’ ”
Dressed in a vibrant green business suit, Latifah was joined at the ceremony by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka along with New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and other municipal officers. The townhouse development is called RISE Living with the acronym standing for “Rita is Still Everywhere”, in honor of her late mother, Rita Owens who was a longtime teacher in the city’s school system. The 76-unit structure is situated on Springfield Avenue and is a mixed-use project that will include 20 three-family townhomes with rents set at the market rate of $1,800 a month. Pre-leasing for the units is slated for July with the development’s opening targeted for 2023.
The groundbreaking prompted Mayor Baraka to reminisce about how the area was crime-stricken, with a young man being killed at the site a while back. “We didn’t know what was gonna happen here … to build something … to revitalize this entire community and this neighborhood,” he said. “This is going to be a linchpin for so much development in this area.” That was part of the MC’s push to get involved in creating the housing dating back to 2006. “This land should be about life, not about dilapidation and lack of services and beauty. There’s love in this city,” she said. Latifah also plans to be “more creative with the design” when it comes to future developments which she desires to include buildings for senior housing and those that are LEED-certified.