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Planning and Community Development

The role of the Division of City Planning and Community Development is to guide the growth and preservation of the city through informed and thoughtful regulation and analysis of land use, economic and social conditions, and transportation, infrastructure, and environmental systems in a manner that facilitates appropriate development, protects historic and cultural assets, and engages all stakeholders in an open and transparent process.

The Division of City Planning includes the following business units:

  • Development Review, which updates and manages the city’s Zoning Ordinance and all regulatory reviews associated with the Central Planning Board and Board of Zoning Adjustments.

  • Downtown Planning, which is responsible for the economic and physical planning of the Central Business District.

  • Geographic Information Systems, which prepares demographic and spatial analysis, develops specialized GIS tools, and creates maps for planners, other government agencies, consultants and the general public.

  • Historic Preservations, which is responsible for all review and regulatory functions associated with new and future historic assets. (To download the Land Use Element of the City Master Plan, click here. A hard copy of the Master Plan is available for sale at the City Clerk's office in room 415 for $58.)

  • Long-Range Planning, which is responsible for the revision and management of the citywide Master Plan.

  • Neighborhood Planning, which oversees community planning initiatives in each of the five wards of the city.

  • Urban Design, which is responsible for the overall coordination and development of an urban design agenda for all public and private projects executed in the city.

  • Waterfront Planning, which plans and coordinates execution of the Passaic Riverfront master plan and planning related to the Port Area redevelopment activities.

Historic Preservation

Do you own historic property?

In an effort to protect its architectural and historic heritage, individual buildings and districts in Newark have been designated as “historic,” and may be placed on the local, state and national register of historic places. Owners of these properties have certain preservation and upkeep responsibilities.

To find out if your property is designated "historic," please contact the Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission secretary at (973) 733-6204. To find out more information about historic property owner responsibilities, download:

Breaking the Box: Newark's New Zoning Standards for 1-, 2- and 3-Family Dwellings

The division of Planning and Community Development embarked on a major rezoning project to improve the design quality of new dwellings that will get built on the city’s 25’ to 50’ wide lots.  This project won the “Outstanding Community Engagement or Education Award” from the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association.  These two downloadable documents describe the project and the resulting new zoning regulations:

The quality of vernacular houses being built in Newark when this project started, which was during the recent real estate “boom”, typically had many urban design flaws.  This typical house type was labeled “the box” because of its uninspiring appearance and clumsy site arrangement.  Newark needed better housing stock to support its revitalization.  Newark’s Division of Planning and Community Development (the Division) needed to develop a solution to ensure that continued new house construction was more context appropriate and functional for an urban area.  The approach taken by the Division involved the community affected by the issue in every step. Architects, Real Estate Developers, city planners, and concerned citizens were called upon to create a Box-House Task Force. It included those who had been designing, building and promoting “box houses” along with others with ideas for change.  The group drafted revisions to Newark Zoning Ordinance.  Then the Division tested the new policies by having 14 architects voluntarily design houses for 5 different sites typical of buildable lots in Newark. Next, the City held a Housing Design Symposium using the architect’s designs and the drafted regulations as a springboard for public discussion. This symposium took place in a large auditorium that was filled to capacity.  People in North Jersey are very familiar with “the box” house type, and, and many had quite a bit to say.  With public feedback the regulations were refined.  In June 2008, the Newark Municipal Council unanimously adopted the project’s resulting zoning revisions.

The Division subsequently began outreach to educate the public, especially the architecture, construction, and real estate communities, to understand the new policies and the need for these policies.  The Division, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Regional Plan Association, published two documents for public distribution.  “The Box and Beyond:  Urban Design Issues for Infill Houses in Newark,” is a comprehensive 40 page booklet which gives a thorough analysis of housing in Newark, a step by step description of the process the Division took to address the design issues, easy to understand diagrams for the new standards, and illustrations of the volunteer architect designs. The Division also published “Newark’s New Zoning Standards for 1-, 2-, and 3-Family Dwellings,” which is a 2 page illustrated brochure using a “dos” and “don’ts” format to quickly and clearly convey the new regulations and to educate the public on the issue.  The larger booklet is primarily for architects, developers, community leaders, and concerned citizens.  The 2-page brochure is widely distributed throughout Newark’s City Hall and in both the Zoning and Construction Division offices.  Additional copies are distributed through real estate and architecture offices.

Zoning isn’t the easiest topic to grasp, but this process let those who design new houses and those living in them help create a better code. The Symposium allowed the public to see alternatives to “the box” and fully understand and influence how zoning is reflected in their lives. The publications have a continuing effort to inform the public of this change.  Additionally, given that “the box” is a common house type throughout the Tri-State Metropolitan Area and the Northeast, other cities can benefit from the design standards and zoning policies developed from Newark’s efforts by integrating these standards into their zoning codes.

The new policies help facilitate “smart growth” planning featuring urban design standards for small urban lots where high density development, at a level of 30 to 40 dwelling units per acre, is encouraged. They were designed to facilitate such density while also addressing the needs and desires for parking and open space in compact urban lots.  Creating standards for 2- and 3-family houses with parking to fit on 25’ to 35’ wide lots involved many challenges and difficult decisions.

The Municipal Council adopted the new zoning standards in June 2008. Since that time, all new 2 and 3 family projects have abided by these regulations. In spite of the current recession, 178 new houses have started construction.

This project ensures that appropriately high densities are maintained for new residential construction along with reasonable parking requirements for transit-rich urban lots.  Sustainability provisions limit impervious land coverage and glazing requirements that support natural lighting and ventilation in dwellings. This policy’s promotion of new construction in Newark encourages urban core housing, which can help curb urban sprawl, by having zoning regulations that provide for attractive, high density, desirable new construction takes place in a city with existing infrastructure, excellent public transit, and walkable access to shops and services.

Economic Development Community Engagement