SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The monthly April meeting of the South Orange Development Committee discussed five projects currently in the pre-development stages.
VOSE AND SOUTH ORANGE AVE.
A potential project was discussed that would be one of the largest for South Orange Village, and would focus on a half-block redevelopment on the north side of South Orange Ave. from Vose Ave. (the former Blockbuster building) to the walkway to the parking lot behind the Village Square building.
The development would be a mixed use building with retail on the ground level, and office space and apartments on the upper floors. Currently, the proposal is in the early stages, and no formal proposal is under consideration. The project would include the developer purchasing the air rights above the parking lot, and building a parking deck for use by both the building and for public use.
Bob Zuckerman, Executive Director of the South Orange Village Center Alliance (SOVCA) commented that it would be great to add "top grade retail space" to the downtown area.
ORANGE LAWN TENNIS CLUB
The Orange Lawn Tennis Club has a proposal to subdivide their property, selling about one-third of the property to a developer who would construct town homes.
South Orange Village President Sheena Collum explained that as the land is currently zoned, the options are to sell the entire property, or if Orange Lawn defaulted on its loans, a bank could sell the land to a developer, who could build 105 units.
The current proposal being reviewed by the Board of Trustees is to rezone the entire property to the same density as the surrounding areas. Upon that approval, the developer is most likely to proceed to purchase the land and build ten structures, totaling 20 units of housing. Since South Orange Village does not own the land, Collum said this will be the best possible outcome for Orange Lawn, residents, and the developer.
FOURTH AND VALLEY
Another project discussed at the Development Committee was the proposed development at Fourth St. and Valley St. The developer first proposed to build over 300 units, and this project was rejected. Then, a development was proposed with fewer units, which was also rejected. The most recent proposal has a vastly changed scope, with no plans for the north side of 4th St. The proposed development would have 100 units, of which ten would be allocated for affordable housing, and 10,000 sq.ft. of retail space, including a restaurant with a rooftop bar and outdoor seating.
Collum expressed her support for this new development, and Andrew Kit, who was identified as the point person for the Academy Heights Neighborhood Association, stated that he was glad to hear that the size of the Fourth and Valley development had been reduced, and would be more in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.
The Fourth and Valley project is not slated to have any tax abatement, and the Development Committee will more fully look into this project after the Orange Lawn development is finalized. Another step that must be taken before going further with the Fourth and Valley development is a traffic study to ensure pedestrian safety.
The Development Committee members stated their hope that the Fourth and Valley development will activate street life and will have amenities to welcome the neighborhood, features that were sited as currently lacking in the Third and Valley building.
In anticipation of the development, Fourth and Valley is now included in the SOVCA, and Zuckerman stated that any new retail businesses or restaurants that are part of the complex would be included in all SOVCA initiatives and programs.
OLD TOWN HALL
Collum gave a brief update on the Old Town Hall, which is being developed by the Landmark Group. The plans are shortly going to the Planning Board with construction slated to commence this September and completion anticipated for late summer/early fall of 2017. Signage and other design aspects will go to the Design Review Board, a function of the SOVCA.
The plan for the parking lot adjacent to the building is for 35 spots to be exclusive to the Landmark Group at all times, and an additional 35 spaces to be available for Landmark's use after 5 p.m. Landmark will have an arrangement with PNC Bank for use of another 35 spaces in the evening, with valet service.
The final item of discussion is the now vacant, gravel covered lot at the corner of Church St. and South Orange Ave., which is owned by Ed Ayuso, who has developed other projects in South Orange, including The Gateway on South Orange Ave.
When Ayuso purchased the Church St. property, there was an existing approval for 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 20 units of housing, and 26 parking spaces. Ayuso has expressed interest in a larger project that would require more space, and the possibility was discussed of South Orange Village taking control of the parking lot by the South Orange train station. If this acquisition happened, it could mean a joint development between Ayuso and South Orange Village. However, Development Committee members discussed prior difficulties with negotiating with New Jersey Transit, which might hinder such a purchase.