No matter how much success she has amassed in entertainment, New Jersey native Queen Latifah has always stayed true to her Newark roots. The rapper and actress—whose real name is Dana Owens—is empowering her community through a new project centered on housing equity, NJ.com reported.
On Tuesday, Owens joined local elected officials and community leaders to break ground on a mixed-use real estate project dubbed RISE Living. Its name celebrates the legacy of her late mother, Rita Owens, symbolizing “Rita Is Still Everywhere.” Through the new development—which Owens officially unveiled plans for in 2019—she and her team of developers will transform a decrepit Newark block into a thriving residential community hub.
The complex will enclose market-rate townhomes and 16 affordable housing units. In addition, the development’s commercial spaces will be devoted to nonprofit organizations and other businesses. The project, led by Owens’ real estate imprint Blue Sugar Corporation and GonSosa Development, was designed to revitalize the local neighborhood. Construction for the development kicked off this winter, and the first phase is slated to be completed by the summer season. The affordable homes will be built next year, and developers aim to finish the entire project by 2024.
Creating projects like RISE Living is a step toward addressing housing affordability in Newark, as poverty has greatly plagued the city’s residents.
“We always thought about real estate and design and ideas, and anytime we get an idea, we think, how can we make it happen,” Owens, who is leading the project alongside her longtime friend Tammy Hammond, shared in a statement. “All we need is a spark, and once we get that spark, it’s off to the races.” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka added the project would be the epicenter of future development in the area.