SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Three options for the “renovation, rehabilitation, repair, and improvement” of the South Orange Municipal Library complex were presented to the Village Board of Trustees at their October 28 meeting. The architecture firm which has been working on the plans for over a year suggested that Option C is best for the town, and the board agreed: they voted in a straw poll unanimously to pursue that option. 

“We’ve been working for the past year to envision a 21st Century library for South Orange,” said John Fontillas of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture LLC. He said that they developed the three plans based on the current and potential future needs of the town. In addition to the current library building at 65 Scotland Road, the neighboring Connett Building at 59 Scotland Road, formerly used by EIES of New Jersey, will be part of the complex. The full slide deck of the presentation can be seen here.

Option A included having all Village Hall offices, renovated library space and a parking deck in the complex. But the parking deck would block light to the windows and a potential price tag of $27.9 million may not be in reach for the town. Option B would include some village offices, but having municipal employees in two locations was not deemed ideal either for the workers or the public. 

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Option C would utilize the complex only for the library, include a connector between the two buildings and create 30,677 square feet of usuable space for the library. New features would be a larger children’s area and dedicated meeting spaces the current layout lacks. The project is projected to cost $12.5 million.

Funding for the project was discussed, and the design team stated that as Connett is a historic building, there are avenues of funding to pursue for that, and the team has also worked with other towns that have incorporated private and corporate funding. There is funding from the state, said Fontillas, “but the state has been very cagey, to be quite honest” about when they make decisions about their funding cycle.

Because the board was not appropriating money, no official action was needed by the board. The straw poll vote was just the trustees’ way of hanging an official label of favorite design onto Option C. 

Also passed during the meeting were first reads of ordinances: one which could refund some South Orange general obligation bonds, “saving the taxpayers $500,000” said Village President Sheena Collum, and another which would place a stop sign on Melrose Place at Franklin Place.