This is a press release from Essex County. Press releases are official statements that have not been independently verified.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. officially dedicated the new Essex County Division of Family Assistance and Benefits (formerly the Division of Welfare) at 320 and 321 University Avenue in Newark on Monday, July 27th. The 150,000 square feet of renovated office space provides employees and clients with modern and more welcoming accommodations. By acquiring the two buildings, Essex County will save about $6 million in annual lease payments.
“We are always looking at initiatives to improve upon our delivery of services to our customers and save taxpayers money. Consolidating our DFAB operations in one location provides a comprehensive and accessible one-stop center for those receiving public assistance and enhances the efficiency of our operations. In addition, with the county purchasing the former bank buildings, we will save about $6 million a year in rent previously being paid to lease space at 18 Rector Street,” DiVincenzo said. “This is a win-win for both our customers and employees who now have modern spaces to conduct their business,” he added.
“The constituents who come to these offices are in need of assistance and this is a place where we can serve them with dignity and respect,” NJ State Senator and Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said.
“I want to congratulate our County Executive for completing another project that will better serve our residents. On behalf of the Freeholder Board, it is easy for us to support projects like this because of the positive impact it has one our residents,” Freeholder President Brendan Gill said.
“The County Executive has a great vision for Essex County, and this is a great edifice for us to service our constituents with dignity and respect,” Freeholder Vice President Wayne Richardson said.
“I am thrilled to see the final project. This is a first-class place. I am looking forward to all the great work we will do for our Essex County constituents,” Essex County Administrator Robert Jackson said.
“To see this transformation and transition happen within a year and during the pandemic is outstanding. Our clients will have state-of-the-art facilities when they come to receive services and our staff who work here will have new offices they deserve,” Essex County Citizen Services Director Anibal Ramos said.
“I want to thank Joe DiVincenzo and the Board of Freeholders for all their support on this project so that we can help constituents in Essex County,” Essex County Division of Family Assistance and Benefits Director Kecia Burnett said.
“This is a magnificent building and I can assure you that all the employees and clients who come here will be safe,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.
Staff began moving into the new buildings in May and operations switched to 320-321 University Avenue on Tuesday, May 26th. DFAB offices at 18 Rector Street, the Essex County Hall of Records at 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Newark and the Essex County One-Stop Center at 50 South Clinton Street in East Orange were consolidated to 320-321 University Avenue. The DFAB call center remains at 50 South Clinton Street.
The complex at 320-321 University Avenue also includes an underground parking garage, an above ground parking garage and surface parking lot that can accommodate a total of 446 vehicles. Acquiring these parking spaces will save Essex County from having to lease parking spaces for employees in private parking lots.
Essex County purchased the two buildings that are connected by a walkway bridge over University Avenue for $26 million in August 2019. Located in Newark’s downtown, 320-321 University Avenue is just across the street from the Historic Essex County Courthouse and there is a magnificent view of the courthouse from the third-floor cafeteria. The building is accessible by NJ Transit.
Essex County previously leased office space at 18 Rector Street in Newark for its DFAB offices. Through the years, the county expanded to additional floors in the building as more space was needed to conduct operations. The County is saving about $6 million in annual lease payments. Essex also is saving money because it no longer has to lease parking spaces for its employees.
At 19 years old, 320-321 University Avenue is a relatively new building. However, the layout of the floors was retrofitted to accommodate the offices and work flow of DFAB. Flooring, HVAC and electrical systems also were modernized. Work began in August 2019 and was completed in 10 months, which was two months ahead of schedule.
Aecom from Clifton received a professional services contract for $650,000 to design the improvements to the building. John O’Hara Company from East Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $15,002,802 to perform the construction work. The Department of Public Works monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided.
The now defunct MBNA opened the office buildings in 2001, which at the time was the first new office space created in the City of Newark in a decade. MBNA later merged with Bank of America, which continued operations at the site until 2013.