South Orange to Revisit Idea of Selling Village Hall

South Orange may put Village Hall on the market. Credits: Amy Kiste Nyberg

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The changing real estate market and the completion of asbestos abatement could lead to renewed interest in Village Hall from private buyers.

The Board of Trustees agreed to discuss the possibility of selling the historical building at a meeting on Monday, June 16, when it also will finish its agenda from Monday night’s meeting.

“It’s worth having a discussion,” Trustee Mark Rosner said. His view was echoed by others on the board. Trustee Sheena Collum, in particular, is pushing for the village to explore its options for what developers call “adaptive reuse.” She first raised the possibility in February.

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The village had explored the possibility of selling Village Hall, going so far as to issue a “request for expression of interest” call to potential buyers, according to Collum. She said that effort led to only one proposal, submitted in 2011, which was rejected by the board.

Information is available about the earlier RFEI and the construction timeline via the village's website.

With asbestos abatement scheduled to be completed at the end of the month, it’s a good time to test the real estate waters again, according to Collum. Work can continue on the building at the same time the village puts out a new RFEI.

Collum acknowledged there would be some cost involved in reissuing a RFEI , such as advertising the property and studying what would be involved in giving up the space if the building should sell. However, she said the board should act fairly quickly so it does not lose “that window of opportunity.”

Village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr. said there are a number of factors to take into account when projecting costs for permanently relocating Village Hall offices. “We can at minimum take our current space and project that,” he said. “Speculating on building another building … becomes a lot more difficult.”

He added, “The board needs to give a lot of advance thought about what you’re willing to entertain there (in Village Hall).”

One problem that remains, Trustee Deborah Davis Ford said, is the building’s designation as a historical preservation site. “We planned almost $1 million for restoration of the exterior,” she pointed out.

Residents who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting favored the idea of trying again to sell Village Hall.

Steve Kissinger pointed out that the village has been paying rent for nearly a year and they “haven’t nailed a single nail into a single board yet.” He said that with the project behind schedule, “I don’t think you can be criticized for reconsidering the issue, but you certainly will be criticized for not doing it.”

Scott Greenstone said that Collum had a great idea. “I want to reiterate what everyone’s saying,” he said. “The market’s changed. You really need to look for a buyer.”

Former Trustee Michael Goldberg said he recently visited the village’s space at 76 South Orange Ave. “I was blown away,” he said. “The employees work together in a much more modern environment … (Village Hall) has really outlived its usefulness.”

The cost of renovation is estimated at $6.5 million and was originally supposed to take two years to complete. Village Hall offices moved out of the building in October, but asbestos abatement has taken far longer than the 60 days estimated. (See related story here.)


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