It is, say Philadelphia developer Carl E. Dranoff; NJPAC president and chief executive officer Lawrence P. Goldman; and city officials.
The project is moving through the normal early stages of architectural planning, engineering, financing and approvals before ground can be broken in 15 to 18 months, they said.
What's more, Dranoff is looking at more projects nearby. He's interested in developing Three Center Street for a hotel and Four Center Street for twin condominium towers.
"I've been through economic cycles before," said Dranoff, president of Dranoff Properties. "The deeper the downturn, the bigger the rebound. It might be cloudy now, but there's always sunshine around the corner."
Dranoff said the next year would be used "to put the pieces together so that when the clouds break, we're ready to go."
The project is where it would have been if there had been no economic problems, said Goldman, whose NJPAC is the development agent for the three Center Street sites.
"The developer is not ready to nail the financing," he said. "This is a perfect time to work on design and planning.
"We plan to be at the head of the line [for financing] when the economy cycles back."
Development projects such as Newark's have a "natural gestation period," said Joe Ritchie, CEO of Brick City Development Corp., a quasi-governmental organization that partners with Newark to attract development and secure public financing.
"The smart developers don't shut down when the cycle turns down. They poise themselves to be the first one out of the gate when there's an upturn," he said.
Dranoff compared Two Center Street to his Victor building in Camden, where he won the right from the state to redevelop a vacant factory into 341 luxury loft apartments. That location has a 95 percent occupancy.
He also plans to develop an adjacent site, the Radio Lofts, an 84-unit condo being converted from a former Victor Talking Machine Co. building.
The work has been delayed for years, but is expected to get under way in the summer, with occupancy expected in 2010.
"I've never been more optimistic," Dranoff said about Camden. "The Camden waterfront is still an incredibly exciting project. You only have to look at Hoboken and Jersey City to see the potential."
The preplanning for the Victor project took a few years, Dranoff said. "We broke ground on it in October 2002, but we were working on it for at least two years before that. It's similar in Newark. There's a great deal of grunt work that comes first."
In other ways, Dranoff's Newark project is similar to his development of the $125 million Symphony House condominiums at Broad and Pine Streets in Philadelphia, near the glass-encased Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
The 32-story building opened in June and is 80 percent sold out.
"It's the idea of arts and culture as a springboard for residential development," he said. "Symphony House is just a few steps from the Kimmel Center, and Two Center Street is just across the street from NJPAC."
Ritchie said the Brick City Development Corp. was working with the developer, "thinking through what kind of public financing might be available for the project."
With the current economic problems, the city and state are expected "to be even stronger partners, because it's hard to think of a better way of stimulating the economy of New Jersey and Newark than a major construction project," Goldman said.
The new Two Center Street tower will be Newark's "first major downtown apartment building in 45 years," Goldman said. "It's symbolically important to the city. It will be transformative, ratcheting up the image of Newark."
With housing in New York, Jersey City and Hoboken so expensive, many young professionals already are locating in Newark - a 15-minute train ride from Manhattan.
Dranoff said that it was too early to announce the rent costs, but that 20 percent of the the apartments - so-called affordable units - would be set aside for working artists.
Two Center Street will be "a destination where people can shop, eat, be entertained and live - where all your needs can be met," Dranoff said. "We will be teed up for the groundbreaking when we come out of the economic mess we're in . . . . The best projects get financing."
Contact staff writer Edward Colimore at 856-779-3833 or email@example.com.