Greater Newark Conservancy continues to expand and enhance its Urban Environmental Center in downtown Newark, NJ. What will become the Main Building of the Center is an historic 1884 former synagogue/church on Prince Street, near Springfield Avenue. This 15,800-square-foot building will be transformed into a large lecture hall/community space, environmental classrooms, a demonstration kitchen/laboratory, environmental exhibit galleries and meeting rooms.
The three-story brick former synagogue/church is an example of Moorish Revival architecture and is listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. Oheb Shalom Congregation occupied the synagogue from 1884 until 1911, at which time it was sold to Congregation Adas Israel and Mishnayes. In 1939 Metropolitan Baptist Church bought the building and occupied it until 1993. Purchased by the City of Newark, the historic synagogue narrowly escaped demolition and was bought by Greater Newark Conservancy in 1995 to serve as the indoor education programming space for the new environmental center. The Conservancy has restored the exterior of the building and plans to proceed with the interior renovation in the fall or winter of 2011.
Next to the former synagogue, the Conservancy has created the Prudential Outdoor Learning Center, featuring outdoor "classroom" thematic gardens and a greenhouse for raising nursery plants and for demonstration purposes. The Center is a natural and open space where urban residents can reenergize their spirit and reduce their stress level, while at the same time inspiring young minds and educating them about the natural world. The Outdoor Learning Center is an ideal location for schoolchildren, teachers and community groups to learn firsthand about the urban environment and experience the wonders of nature and horticulture. The Prudential Outdoor Learning Center's garden galleries opened for public field trips in the fall of 2004. Since that time 19,000 schoolchildren and adults have explored its wonders and engaged in its hands-on learning activities! The Outdoor Learning Center features ten garden galleries, pathways leading past flowering trees and shrubs, an analemmatic sundial, a pond with a cascading stream and demonstration gardens where community residents can learn how to raise vegetables and flowers in their own yards.
In July 2010, the Conservancy moved into its new offices at the Center, located in a renovated former commercial building on the Springfield Avenue perimeter of the complex. Now that the staff is on site, many more programs and community activities are being offered.