Hyatt Hotel an issue of contention among mayoral candidates
BY Associate News Editor
Construction of a new Hyatt Hotel on 96 E. Main St., opposite the intersection with Academy Street, is a key issue drawing interest in the city’s mayoral race. The hotel is set to include a 144 rooms and 19,500 square feet of office space.
The hotel has garnered some controversy because it is currently slated to be built in place of Newark’s Green Mansion, a registered historic landmark. Mayoral candidates are divided on the issue, with advocates believing the hotel will be a boon to local businesses and detractors worrying about the unprecedented size and location of this franchise hotel.
At seven stories tall, the hotel will be the tallest structure on Main Street. Abbott’s Shoe Repair shop will be demolished to make way for the its construction; however, the historic Green Mansion’s outer facade will be retained and incorporated into the hotel’s design.
“I’m against that structure in that space,” Mayoral candidate Catherine Ciferni said. “If they wanted to take the Green Mansion and make, I don’t know, a 20-room bed-and-breakfast, that I would not have a problem with. The building, as its designed, in the capacity its designed, I have a problem with. I think there’s problems when it comes to development and planning.”
Ciferni is a tutor at the University of Delaware’s English Language Institute and a self-described “community advocate.” Another contender in the mayoral race, Brandon Farzad, believes the hotel’s economic potential outweighs the Green Mansion’s supposed historic value.
“It is a special building but, to prevent that level of opportunity for the city because you like this building is just ridiculous,” Farzad, an engineer for Northrop Grumman, said. “My mother grew up in Naples, Italy. The home that she grew up in was over 250 years old. It was not a historic landmark.”
Mayoral candidate and longtime city councilmember of District two, Jerry Clifton, also supported building the new hotel.
“I voted for it,” Clifton said. “I think it is an economic enhancement. I think that, the way our law is written, it was difficult to vote against it.”
The Lang Development group, Newark’s largest development company, initially planned for the hotel to be built approximately 82 feet tall, 3 feet taller than what is allowed under Newark law. This would have required a special-use permit from the city council to exempt it from the building code, but Lang opted instead to reduce the hotel’s height to meet the maximum allowed under the law.
“The hotel is exactly as tall as our land development code allows, and that’s one reason we’ll need to take a look at our building laws going forward,” Clifton said.
Candidate Kasai Guthrie, a 21-year-old entrepreneurship student at the university, voiced his objection to the hotel’s construction during the Mayoral Debates on March 24.
“I just felt like the timing of it is really off, especially with the Main Street construction,” Guthrie said. “The other cons are the traffic and parking, so I think first we need to take care of the cons.”
Critics, like Ciferni, also worry that the planned parking garage to be built attached to the hotel will be a problem for local traffic.
“I think that a parking garage like that is going to pose some serious challenges to transportation, traffic, maybe bus traffic, in the city,” Ciferni said. “In the way it’s designed, I don’t see how building a large parking garage with the hotel wouldn’t interrupt the normal flow of cars or people.”
Lang has stated that the parking garage will be privately managed and open to hotel guests and office workers, but also that the public would be able to park there at a rate of $2 per hour. The cost of public parking on Main Street is currently half that.
Farzad argues that the hotel will be of particular benefit to the local restaurants on Main Street.
“I think families staying [in the hotel] are going to want to go out, you know, and explore Main Street,” Farzad said. “Naturally, they’re going to come across lots and lots of options for dinner, and I think that represents a huge opportunity for the restaurants around here. A lot of voters, and I’ve talked to literally thousands, are against the hotel initially, but once I explain that part to them, I think they’re all very open-minded.”
Newark mayoral elections will be held on Tuesday, April 9. Construction of the Hyatt Hotel is scheduled to begin this summer and end sometime during the fall of next year.