SOUTH ORANGE, NJ —  This Monday, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum encouraged the Board of Trustees to advance Hub Realty’s South Orange and Vose project. The development set for the former Blockbuster site would include 99 market rate units and 11 affordable housing units, Collum said, which aligns with the avenue’s current scale and density. After three years of negotiations with the developer, along with extensive Development Committee meetings and financial analyses, Collum encouraged the trustees to act.

“We currently have a proposal on the table that’s been negotiated, renegotiated, negotiated again,” Collum said. “We’re at the end of the lifeline of discussing this project. I’m looking for authorization and direction from the Board of Trustees to prepare redevelopment plans and a financial agreement for the site.”

Hub Realty would pay an upfront “community improvement sum” of $2 million, Collum said, which may fund the library’s Connett project as well as a structured parking facility in the library lot. In addition, Hub Realty would add approximately 75 new protected parking spaces to the Taylor Place lot, which would include public parking and reserved spots for all nearby residents.

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The project also aims to boost local business, allocating 2,500 square feet to ground retail and an incubator space. Collum said she has discussed plans with local retail experts. Trustees commended the opportunity for South Orange entrepreneurs.

“I think it is a game changer,” said Village Trustee Steve Schnall. “There are a number of business folks who have not been able to be business owners just because it is so capital-intensive to try to sign a long-term lease on a prime location like South Orange Avenue.”

Such developments will play a major role in South Orange’s future, said Trustee Deborah Davis Ford. She called the project “a key footprint” for the South Orange Avenue businesses and the village itself. South Orange currently receives about $190,000 from privately-owned properties, Collum said, but this investment could raise that amount to around $15 million over the next 25 years. Collum hopes to eventually move away from such pilot programs and increase revenue from capital improvements.

For now, Collum believes it is the moment to act. As interest rates rise and the market faces a potential decline, she said, the village has already done its due diligence.

“This project, nor any project, will ever be perfect,” Collum said. “But the question is, ‘Is it better and in the best interest of the village?’”

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