Former bank building to become DFAB headquarters

Photo Courtesy of Essex County
From left are James Pitman from the John O’Hara Company; Monika Parkitna and James Sanders from Aecom; Freeholders Len Luciano and Tyshammie L. Cooper; Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr.; Chief of Staff Phil Alagia; Division of Family Assistance and Benefits Kecia Burnett; NJ State Sen. and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz; former Essex County administrator Ralph Ciallella; Sheriff Armando Fontoura; Essex County administrator Robert Jackson; Citizen Services Director Anibal Ramos; and Deputy Chief of Staff William Payne.

NEWARK, NJ — Essex County purchased the office building complex located at 320-321 University Ave. in Newark. The 150,000 square feet of space will become the new headquarters for the Essex County Division of Family Assistance and Benefits. The offices are scheduled to be opened by July 2020.

“We are always looking at initiatives to improve upon our delivery of services to our customers and save taxpayers money,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said. “Consolidating our DFAB operations in one location will create a comprehensive and accessible one-stop center for those receiving public assistance. 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 St. This is a win-win for both our customers and employees who will have modern spaces to conduct their business.”

“Our officers see about 13,500 families a month who come when they are experiencing the most challenging times of their lives,” Division of Family Assistance and Benefits Director Kecia Burnett said. “We are proud to have reached a 98 percent timeliness rating and thank our county executive for investing in this modern facility for our employees and creating a more welcoming facility for our customers.”

Essex County purchased the two buildings, which are connected by a walkway bridge over University Avenue, for $26 million. Located in Newark’s downtown, 320-321 University Ave. is across the street from the Essex County Courthouse, and the building is accessible by NJ Transit.

Essex County currently leases office space at 18 Rector St. in Newark for its DFAB offices. Through the years, the county has expanded to additional floors in the building as more space was needed to conduct operations. The county currently leases the entire building and pays approximately $6 million a year in rent. The county also leases parking spaces in several parking lots to provide parking spaces for employees.

In addition to 18 Rector St., DFAB offices are located at 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 St. in East Orange. As part of the consolidation, all DFAB offices will move to 320-321 University Ave. with the exception of the call center, which will remain in East Orange.

The complex at 320-321 University Ave. also includes an underground parking garage, an aboveground 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.

At 19 years old, 320-321 University Ave. is a relatively new building. However, the layout of the floors is being retrofitted to accommodate the offices and work flow of DFAB. Flooring, HVAC and electrical systems also are being modernized.

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 will monitor the project to ensure delays are avoided.