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Newark Constructing 'Village' for Teachers

TeachersVillage_Blog.jpg

Here's an interesting urban-renewal story with a distinct connection to teaching: In an effort to revive its blighted downtown area, the city of Newark, N.J., last month officially launched a major new development project known as Teachers Village.

The six-building complex, which is scheduled to be completed in 2015, will include three new charter schools, some 215 middle-income apartments for teachers, and a host of retail shops. It will take up most of an entire city block.

"The idea," according to a Huffington Post article, "is to create a community of teachers who live in the apartments, shop at the stores, teach at nearby schools and meet with other teachers and their families in plazas designed for collaboration. Their presence will bring energy—and disposable income—to the now run down-area."

The total cost for the project is expected to run to $150 million—apparently a deal since the design is being done by renowned architect Richard Meier. (See the Getty Center in Los Angeles.)

The rents for the apartments are expected to range from $700 to $1400 a month, according to The Star-Ledger. The apartments will be open to regular Newark public school teachers as well as to charter school teachers.

Some Newark residents, according to Huff Po, have objected to the project, saying the money would be better spent on existing public schools or other pressing needs in the downtrodden city. But Newark officials, including Mayor and U.S. Senator-elect Cory Booker, have retorted that the Teachers Village will attract investment, create hundreds of new jobs, and provide an innovative model for school construction and improvement.

"We are not just building buildings," the project's developer, Ron Beit, said (via Architectural Record). "We are building a tool that will serve this city and state in the recruitment and retention of the best teachers in the region. And we are setting an example in school construction for the benefit of the children in the community. In doing so we are creating a model that cities across the country will want to emulate."

In fact, other cities may not be too far behind. Smaller-scale urban teacher-housing developments have recently been launched in Baltimore and Philadelphia as well.

Photo: Newark Mayor Cory Booker, center left, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center right, join corporate leaders, teachers, and students as they cut a ribbon on Sept. 25, opening a finished section of Newark's Teachers Village project.—Mel Evans/AP

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