SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The exterior demolition of Ridge Tire on South Orange Avenue started today. The site will be rebuilt as Learning Experience, a child care and tutoring center, said South Orange Trustee Bob Zuckerman.

This site was one of the many redevelopment projects mentioned during last night’s streaming Town Hall, where elected officials and some municipal employees answered residents’ questions about the reopening of South Orange. 

Bob Zuckerman was asked about the current state of redevelopment as South Orange opens up after the three month coronavirus shutdown; questions came in from both Facebook Live and Webex. 

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He said the Vose and Taylor Project— which will have 13,000 square feet of retail space and up to 110 apartments as well as underground municipal parking — is getting close to getting underway. 

“It’s my understanding the developers will be applying for a demolition permit very shortly,” Zuckerman said. The buildings affected will be torn down “probably by the end of the summer, is what I’m hearing.” The developer also must get site plan approval from the planning board, he added. Once construction is underway, “they’re going to try to replace the municipal parking lot portion of it first,” he said. 

Zuckerman also mentioned that Monte Motors on Valley St. has already been demolished to make way for the forthcoming Fourth and Valley project. The redevelopment plan has been approved, he said, “and now the redevelopment agreement and the financial agreements have to be approved” by the Board of Trustees.

Village President Sheena Collum added in an update about the Village Hall reconstruction and restoration into a beer garden and restaurant. “Things are moving forward,” Collum said. The original estimate of opening at the end of 2020 has been pushed back by both the pandemic and the condition of the structure. “When they finally got into the building…there were significant alterations to the foundation… There was a lot of additional work [needed] that wasn’t in the specifications of what we were anticipating.”

A preliminary review of the Wells Fargo site on Third Street could be ready for the development committee and the public in four to six weeks, Collum said. “Developers come in and, God love em, they’re going to start in a place that’s blissfully ignorant. Then they have to deal with the governing body, and then we bring people back to reality,” mused Collum. “What we will be presenting is a mixed use development. An exciting component of this project [is that] it will contain all 20 percent affordable housing units on site.” Collum is also looking forward to a potential public art space aspect at the site.  

Collum praised Trustee Summer Jones’ work on guiding the 270/299 Irvington Avenue project“in a collaborative way with residents.” The site is eligible for a five-year tax abatement as part of a townwide rehabilitation district, “which is something we extend to all redevelopers. More importantly,” she added, “this is another project that is going to have a 20 percent inclusionary component between two sites” for affordable housing units, and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space. She also praised the architect for a design that minimizes massing and includes green space behind the building for the residents to use, with parking moved underground.

Trustee Karen Hilton gave an update on the renovation of the Baird Center. “Lots and lots of work is happening behind the scenes,” she said. A request for bid proposal has garnered multiple bids, “and the committee is now working on analyzing those. So we hope to have a recommendation [for] the whole board by late July.” 

The timing was pushed back by the need to examine the bids more closely, Trustee Walter Clarke added.

“In a perfect world,” said Hilton, construction could start in early fall, but “there’s room for movement in that.”


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