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Threads of history interwoven into next chapter for historic ‘Innovation Cathedral’ in Newark

Posted at 6:26 PM, May 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-21 18:26:49-04

NEWARK, NJ —  An abandoned cathedral in Newark is now home to a major tech company. Audible has called Newark home for 12 years, but they have now broadened their campus to include a once-blighted landmark, now fully restored and modernized to meet the growing company's needs.

The building’s history is deeply personal for one family.

"My parents and my grandmother walked down the aisle to start their life here," said Meryl Hether.

In 1926, Hether’s grandparents took their vows beneath the church's towering stained glass windows. In 1960, her parents also met below the large cathedral organ.

"They used to go bowling downstairs. My dad was actually a pinsetter downstairs," she said. "My uncle was the minister of music so he played the pipe organ here."

The 1950s bowling alley in the basement of the pre-civil war building has also been fully restored. Audible employees can use it for free. There's also an in-house barista, a brick-oven pizzeria and wide-open workspaces.

Audible has renamed the 80,000-foot space the Innovation Cathedral.

"I think this is amazing. I love that they kept the history and then brought it to a modern place," said Hether.

"We are encouraging the community to come and visit us," said Anne Erni, Audible's chief people officer. "This is truly one of the great comeback cities of the 21st century. If folks remember, Newark is a place where Thomas Edison had some of his original laboratories."

Each of Audible’s conference rooms are named for famous Newarkers. The audio book and entertainment company says the four year renovation of this cathedral aligns with their mission to help Newark thrive.

In addition to revitalizing the old building, Audible created Newark Venture Partners, a $45 million venture capital fund that's invested in dozens of budding tech companies that are planted in Newark. Audible also recently started a program to employ the city's formerly homeless. And they are encouraging their existing employees to create their own roots in Newark.

"We give all employees who decide to work here a $500 after-tax monthly stipend to rent or buy an apartment here in Newark," said Erni. "We want it to be a place where people come to live, play, as well as work."

As for Meryl Hether — she can see threads of her family’s history interwoven into the next chapter of this old cathedral.

"My family all have dyslexia so being able to hear a book on tape is very important to us," she said. "And so it is special in every way."