SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The South Orange Board of Trustees, at their September 9 meeting had a presentation regarding the planned reconstruction of the Baird Community Center in Meadowland Park presented by two partners BIBER PARTNERSHIP AIA,  the architectural firm engaged to develop the plans.

Architects Peter Biber and Lauren Mitchell went over plans for the Baird Community Center, showing slides depicting different aspects of the project.  Biber showed a plan that provides a clean appearance for the building that lessens its Tudoresque look with a light gray facade and some blue striping with a brick base that keeps it grounded on the slope it occupies.  The grounds would have a new water garden and a courtyard at a new entry, and a field house would be added.  The first floor’s new entry would open into a new art gallery with a front reception desk with a game room on the side.  A room to another side could be used for various purposes such as a space for parents to gather when picking up their children from a community program, and this would be one of several multipurpose rooms throughout the facility.  The second floor would feature a community room with an adjacent cafe, ornamented with an outdoor terrace along its perimeter that looks out at the grounds.  It would also feature a multipurpose room for large events, with a multipurpose performance space for arts programs in the third floor as well.

Biber said that he was confident that the plans he and Mitchell have made would facilitate the reconstruction.  “I shouldn’t say it’ll be an easy building to build,” he said, “but it will be less challenging.”

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Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the Baird that Biber and Mitchell have incorporated into their plans is a zoned heating system that selectively heats only the parts of the building that is in use at any given time, saving energy and making the Baird more efficient.  “We’re aiming for a more economical operation of this building,” he said.

Nevertheless, both architects conceded that there would be difficulties.  They have to review the structural system of the Baird and they have opened up sections and foundation walls to see how their plans can be executed, with the information being shared with engineers.  They explained that the building was constructed in a helter-skelter fashion, and the inconsistencies make the understanding of its structural integrity difficult. 

“We’ve really tried to discover as much as we can about the building and try to figure out as much as we can so we don’t have surprises during construction,” Mitchell said,  She said that she hoped the bidding  for the Baird project would commence in October and run through December, with construction taking two years.  A plan for the interior is still in the works.