Real Estate

South Orange Development Committee Meeting Covers NJ Transit Lot Acquisition and More

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South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and Barry Lewis, South Orange Village Administrator
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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - At the South Orange Development Committee meeting on Jan. 10, a number of active projects were discussed, with the committee updating the current status of the following:

NJ Transit Lot Property Acquisition

South Orange Village President Sheena Collum explained the plan that was proposed to NJ Transit (NJT) for the use of the property, which includes a public parking plaza on the eastern end of the parking lot (near SOPAC), connecting it to the Village Greenway Project, increasing circulation on the western portion (ending at Church St.), and creating a mixed use development consisting of a parking deck, residential and commercial space. The gravel lot at the corner of South Orange Ave. and Church St. was discussed as possibly being incorporated into the development plans.

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According to Collum, Somerville had a similar project, which took 15 years to reach agreement with NJT. Collum added that the NJT team, representing all departments, was impressed with the proposal, and that they provided a memorandum of understanding offering a land lease, not a sale of the property.  This is a "non-starter" for South Orange, said Collum. 

There is a follow-up meeting set for the second week in February, and if there is no progress, South Orange Village will ask for assistance from Essex County Executive, Joe DiVincenzo and legislators.

Fourth and Valley (Meridia Development)

Collum reported that there has been positive feedback from the community, and the redevelopment agreement is in progress with the developer.  Among other details, the agreement will ensure that the finished project will be "what we like and have seen," said Collum.

Next steps include sending a resolution to the South Orange planning board and for the developers to make their presentation to the planning board. By using a resolution, recommendations and any improvements to the plan made by the planning board can be incorporated into the ordinance, said Collum. The developer will provide 10% affordable housing on site, and deposit a sum equal to an additional 10% into South Orange's trust fund for affordable housing. These funds may be used for senior housing or Jespy Housing. The developer, Meridia, is currently short seven parking spots in their plan, however they anticipate resolving this shortly. Collum said that the a new development plan and site plan is expected to be submitted to the planning board in April or May.

South Orange also plans to do a Valley Street traffic study, make improvements to the crosswalks, and make improvements to Memorial Park.

Hub Realty – Lustbader Property (Former Blockbuster Building)

Following the last meeting, direction was given to the developer to have their architect come up with a hybrid plan, and it is expected to be presented at the next monthly meeting. Some of the direction given to Hub Realty include removing the interior retail space and public plaza, facing all the new retail on South Orange Ave. and Vose Ave., eliminating the patio covering, and adding convenient parking for the existing retail stores. The current scale of the building is too large, said Collum, and exceeds the height limit. 

The proposed plan has 138 units, which is 9 units per acre whereas both the current Third and Valley development and the planned Fourth and Valley development have are at 8 units per acre. The first submission from the developer envisioned an eight-story building, which has now been reduced to five stories, which Development Committee members thought was still too high. A significant amount of change to the latest submission is expected, and further negotiation will be necessary to arrive at a workable project, said Collum.

South Orange Master Plan

There was a short discussion regarding South Orange's plan to develop an RFP for a new master plan; the last plan was completed in 1979, and while it has been re-examined and revised, it is not complete. The aim according to the Development Committee is to have the RFP ready this spring. Within the next month all committees will be contacted so that all concerns and needs are covered in the RFP.

Seton Hall University Student and Junior Faculty Housing

There is a need for adequate housing for both upper class students and junior faculty, stated Collum. Both upper class students and junior faculty have housing difficulties, with junior faculty often unable to find housing that they can afford. Currently, there have been issues with students who rent single houses in residential neighborhoods and are causing a "disrupting factor." 

There are two developers who have expressed interest in building suitable housing, however they would like Seton Hall to either sign a master lease or guarantee leasing, which Seton Hall is not willing to do, said Collum. The housing being discussed would not be off campus dormitories, but would be apartments with suitable facilities. The benefit to South Orange would be that there would be no impact on the public schools, and a lower parking ratio would be necessary as Seton Hall would provide students with ShuFly shuttle stops and on campus parking. 

Hotels in South Orange

There are two parcels in town in active negotiation with proposed hotel operators. A minimum of 100 rooms are required by the state to acquire a liquor license, which is essential in order for the hotel to be successful.

Orange Lawn Development

Orange Lawn has preliminary approval for ten buildings, representing twenty units of housing and associated redevelopment of the property.

Village Hall

Landmark’s application was pulled from the January planning board meeting due to the fact that proper notice had not been given regarding the second off-street parking lot. Should everything be acceptable on first submission to the planning committee, approval could come in March, with a potential start of work in May 2017, said Collum. Construction is projected to take about 14 months.  

During public comment, Stuart Wainberg of Wainco Realty and Mark Murphy or Mark Murphyy’s Music expressed their concern with the future parking situation as both Village Hall and the Lustbader project in the former Blockbuster building would take parking away from their businesses. It was agreed that a parking meeting would be held in the future to discuss these concerns further.

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