SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The South Orange Development Committee met for their regular monthly meeting on July 13. The focus of the meeting was on the creation of a new Master Plan for South Orange.

Phil Abramson, South Orange Planner, gave a broad overview of the reasons for developing a new Master Plan, including the main points that will be addressed in the plan, and the timeline for creating such a plan. The target, said Abramson, is to have the plan completed in about 18 months.

The current master plan dates back to the 1970s, and although it’s been reviewed every 8 to 10 years, the consensus of the group was that it is now time to create a new plan that reflects current times and needs of the community.

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Abramson stated that the creation of the Master Plan will reflect the needs of residents, business owners, and constituents from all sectors, both residential and commercial. In addition, when complete, the Master Plan will encompass all aspects of South Orange Village, including parking, land use, housing, and fair use/affordable housing. 

In addition, the plan will look at what housing the community wants, such as townhouses and condominiums, as well as take into consideration historic preservation.

Other updates from the Development Committee at the July meeting included:

South Orange Hotel Feasibility

South Orange Village President Sheena Collum gave a brief summary about the potential for having a hotel in town. Collum said that she has met with a developer who has expressed interest in developing a hotel. The developer is working with one of the major hotel chains, which has identified the size requirements for such a venture, which would be at least 100 rooms and about 8000 square feet of meeting space. Such a building, said Collum, would most likely be eight stories in height. The requirement for 100 rooms is necessitated by state regulations on the minimum required to qualify for a liquor license. The hotel project is early in the discussion phase. Nureed Saeed was appointed chair of the subcommittee to be formed to undertake the initial evaluation of the proposal for the hotel.

Blockbuster Redevelopment

The redevelopment of the former Blockbuster building on South Orange Avenue is being considered by developers Lustbader/Hub Realty, which is currently in discussions with the owners of the corner property, the current location of Chris's Texas Weiners (51 South Orange Ave.), the purchase of which would help with fulfilling their development vision.

Fourth and Valley

The developers of Fourth and Valley have submitted a final site plan, which includes 10% affordable housing on site. The financial agreement with the Village has not been finalized.

Seton Hall Student Housing on Valley Street

While generally in favor of creating student housing, Collum stated that a major issue with the current proposal is the building height, which is currently proposed at 5 stories. Collum stated that she does not think the building should exceed 3 stories. However, the developer needs the building to house at least 200 students in order to retain a top-level student housing management company, which requires a minimum number of residents. One idea mentioned at the meeting was to create two buildings on Valley Street, which would be close enough for one management company to operate them both.

South Orange Village Hall

The proposed redevelopment of Village Hall is currently before the South Orange Planning Board, and the hearings should be concluded at the August meeting of the Planning Board on Monday, August 8. 

Updates from the South Orange Village Center Alliance (SOVCA)

Bob Zuckerman, Executive Director of SOVCA, gave a brief update on commercial happenings in town, including the opening of Artistry Salon by Ampy in the Third & Valley building, and the possibility of a snack shop opening in the building.

A new Metro PCS store opened on South Orange Avenue. Two vacant stores on South Orange Avenue are slated to be Jackie’s Grillette, which currently operates in Upper Montclair. The former Neelam space will be a new Indian restaurant, and is expected to open soon.

Zuckerman also explained the new banner program in downtown South Orange, which has four different messages, including "Everybody Belongs Here." There are also plans for a "parklet" where people can stop and relax in the parking spaces outside of Tito's Burritos on South Orange Avenue.

The next South Orange Development meeting is Thursday, August 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the South Orange Municipal offices at 76 South Orange Avenue.

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