From the WSJ:
Growing up here in the 1970s, Shaquille O’Neal’s family ushered him to two places to keep him off the streets: the local Boys and Girls Club and the nearby movie theater.
“Any place that I could be for two to three hours was always good,” said Mr. O’Neal, the former National Basketball Association star, in an interview.
An old theater on Springfield Avenue is now CityPlex12 Newark, after a $7 million renovation completed in 2012 by a joint venture between the retired basketball center and a prominent New Brunswick developer.
It’s one of several projects Mr. O’Neal and Boraie Development are working on in Newark and other New Jersey cities to bring commercial and housing development—including market-rate units—into some of the state’s more distressed areas.
It is a burgeoning partnership that has begun attracting notice, with Mr. O’Neal lending money and star power to a local developer with extensive political contacts and experience.
“Our team is focused right now on Jersey’s urban downtowns,” Mr. O’Neal said. “We don’t want to be all over the place. We want to do one great project at a time.”
Their latest project breaks ground on Friday, a $60 million rental complex that will be downtown Newark’s first new housing tower in 50 years. Mr. O’Neal will attend the ceremony, along with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and other officials.
Mr. O’Neal said he views his foray into development as giving back to the city of his youth. His partners view them as smart investments. “If you build the right product, the dollars are there,” Mr. Boraie said of building in New Jersey’s cities.
The new 169-unit housing tower will rise near the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. It will include a pool, a gym and a doorman, with rents starting at $1,400 for a studio. The site is the former headquarters of the Ballantine Brewing company, and its 19th-century façade will be preserved. The project is receiving tax breaks from Newark and the state.