Newark and Its Gateway Complex
By Thomas Dolan

Newark and Its Gateway Complex

"Before I built a wall, I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out."

—ROBERT FROST, Mending Walls

A Shadow Over Newark

At a recent national conference, a man announced to his colleagues: "I live within walking distance of two top universities, one college, a performing arts center, a public library, a museum, a financial center and a historic society." The conference participants obviously were interested and inquired where the speaker lived. His reply, "Newark, New Jersey," was met with a collective groan and disbelief. All of the above is true. So what is wrong with Newark? Why aren't people interested in New Jersey's largest city?

Without a doubt Newark has an image problem. Newark's image was arguably at its lowest with the riots of 1967. Today, after economic growth in the '90s, perhaps the city's image is at its best.

But Newark's most troubled years still cast a shadow over its downtown. Nowhere is this clearer, ironically, than in the gleaming Gateway Center in downtown Newark.

The Gateway Center was built in four stages. The first phase saw the construction of Gateway One, completed in 1971; the second phase, the building of Gateway Two, was completed in 1972. Gateway Three and Gateway Four were completed in 1985 and 1988, respectively. On paper there are plans for a Gateway Five and a Gateway Six, but, although the land is available (currently it is used for outdoor parking), no one is actively pursuing the project.

The Gateway complex is situated east to west between Penn Station and Mulberry Street, and north to south between Raymond Boulevard and Market Street. Skywalks and pedestrian malls interconnect all of the Gateway buildings.

Gateway has been fully owned by Prudential Insurance Companies since 1976. A 1997 pamphlet distributed by Premisys Real Estate, a subsidiary of Prudential, describes Gateway as "New Jersey's largest mixed-use project." According to Premisys, it offers potential occupants "a self-contained, institutional quality, corporate office environment that is unique in the state." Tenants become "members of the Gateway community," and each building has "a fully monitored, electronic, high tech security system, which allows for continual monitoring of Gateway Center, its parking garages, common areas, elevators, and streets."

Many of these traits have been explored in two books, City of Quartz, by Mike Davis, and the Architecture of Fear, edited by Nan Ellin. Both books explore the rise of "defensible space" and "fear architecture," which became common after the riots of the '60s and the Los Angeles riots of the early '90s. These concepts can also be applied to Newark and the Gateway Complex.

What we build is who we are. Within our built environment are clues to understanding our past. In many ways, the buildings we construct tell more about our history than a single book or work of art. Many people are involved in the construction of a single building—architect, builder, developer, politician and tenant. Buildings express a collective hope or fear that a society holds. The story of the Gateway complex tells us much about the political, social and economic situation in Newark during some of the darkest days in the city's history—and how the shadow of these days still hangs over the city today.

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