News and analysis
January 05, 2016

Ommeed Sathe: Facelift for a Midsize City

Courtesy of Harold Banks, Prudential Financial, Inc.

Ommeed Sathe, 37
Vice President, Impact Investments, Prudential Financial

Ommeed Sathe has a big job. He oversees a $500 million portfolio of investments designed to produce both financial and social returns, and Prudential aims to increase the amount of money invested to $1 billion by 2020.

But the financial-services giant isn’t just investing in other people’s deals. The company is recruiting partners and creating its own projects for social good.

"A lot of our peers are mostly picking from a Chinese menu of what’s available," says Mr. Sathe. "We get to go in the kitchen and actually cook the projects."

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The most ambitious recipe to date is the redevelopment of the Hahne & Company department store, a spectacular 1901 building that has sat empty in downtown Newark since the late 1980s. When the renovation is complete, Whole Foods is set to move into the ground floor, and Rutgers University’s College of Art and Design will be on the second floor. The top two floors will be a mix of market-rate and affordable apartments.

Over the last three years, Prudential has invested more than $180 million in projects that have brought 1,000 housing units, 250 hotel rooms, and 300,000 square feet of retail space to downtown Newark.

The goal is to revitalize the company’s hometown while meeting the needs of all its residents, says Mr. Sathe. "We have a Whole Foods, but we also have a ShopRite."

He’s committed to figuring out what works best to boost cities in transition. Many of the most important tools in economic development — things like the low-income-housing tax credit — were designed with very large urban markets, like New York or Los Angeles, in mind, he says. But they don’t work as well in other cities where conditions are different; say, in a city where the cost of construction isn’t the main barrier to creating affordable housing.

Says Mr. Sathe: "Newark definitely has this opportunity to be a great laboratory."

Send an email to Nicole Wallace.