Newark, N.J. — As the city of Newark continues to revitalize its downtown area, Mayor Ras Baraka, civic leaders and representatives from local businesses gathered on Thursday to commemorate the grand opening of Hotel Indigo, the city’s first boutique hotel.
The hotel, which is located around the corner from Prudential Center at the intersection of Broad Street and Edison Place, and hosted New Jersey Devils alumni during the 1995 Stanley Cup 20th Anniversary celebration weekend in early March, held the ribbon cutting ceremony in its recently opened restaurant, Alva.
Newark Community Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Otis Rolley served as the master of ceremonies, entertaining the assembled crowd and press between speeches from some of the many people that made Hotel Indigo into a reality.
“Everyone benefits, from the Hotel Indigo being here,” said Mayor Ras Baraka. “I’ve actually stayed upstairs…And the great thing about that is my room was booked by an ex-student from Central High School.” Baraka said the hotel is an example of what is to come in the city. The training program built to prepare people for jobs at Indigo will continue as more hotels open, offering jobs for more Newarkers.
Calling the place “chic and trendy,” Prudential Financial Vice Chairman Mark Grier discussed how the hotel is part of the many good things he tells people about Newark. “It’s fabulous to have a place like this. Wonderful location, wonderful hotel, wonderful bar.” Grier also noted its prime location near Prudential Financial’s headquarters and Newark’s entertainment hub, Prudential Center.
A focal point, touched on by both business leaders and civic dignitaries, was how the hotel’s construction and operation have created jobs for Newark’s capable labor force. Central Ward councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins summed it up perfectly, saying, “When we walk in here, we see Newarkers working.”
In addition to creating jobs, the construction of the Indigo offered the opportunity for the community to create a hospitality-training course, which trained around 60 people. Beyond hospitality training, 20 students from the city attended weekly classes taught by engineers, plumbers, architects and professionals from the many fields that make a building possible.
“Restoration of a building like this, is more than just creating a hotel,” said Owner Samer Hanini, of the Hanini Group. Hanini invoked the memory of Clement Price, a man who made Newark his home shortly after the turbulence of 1968 and became one of the city’s greatest advocates, talking about how Price visited the hotel, and described the place as a restoration of the city’s memory, civic pride and hope.
Originally built in the early 1900s, the Hotel Indigo occupies the former space of the First National State Bank building. Designers kept the look and feel of the bank throughout certain areas of the new hotel, including the original vault, which has been converted to the restaurant’s pizza oven. The site has been part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1977, after becoming part of the New Jersey chapter in ’76.
Since the Devils moved to Newark and Prudential Center opened, the surrounding area of Newark has become increasingly revitalized. In 2012, the Courtyard by Marriott hotel opened on Broad Street, which at the time was the first new Newark hotel in 40 years. Also in 2012, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que opened its only Garden State location, and patrons continue to fill the place either during lunch breaks or before events at The Rock.
With its doors open and ready to welcome travelers and residents alike, Hotel Indigo is yet another step in the rejuvenation of New Jersey’s largest city, drawing upon the history of Newark as it helps bring the city into the future.