LIVINGSTON, NJ — Demolition has officially begun at the former Northfield Baptist Church at the corner of South Livingston Avenue and East Northfield Road, where the township recently approved an application by Livingston Builders, LLC, to create a mixed-use residential and retail development at the location, dubbed “Northfield Center.”

The proposal, which was given preliminary approval in November 2020, calls for the demolition of the church and two adjacent retail buildings as well as the renovation of a one-story building on South Livingston Avenue that currently houses a dental practice. The three existing lots, including the sanctuary at the corner and the two retail buildings, will be consolidated into one parcel at 531 South Livingston Avenue for mixed-use purposes. 

“The Livingston Vision 20/20 committee puts out community surveys every three or four years, and one of the things that people consistently mention is that Livingston doesn't have a downtown,” said Livingston Mayor Shawn Klein. “We don't have a train station like other towns that serves as a center for the downtown, so Livingston has been developed in a different way. I always think of Livingston as having two commercial areas that could serve as downtowns: one is at the intersection of South Livingston and Mount Pleasant, and the other is at South Livingston and Northfield.

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“This piece of property obviously has a prominent place at the intersection of South Livingston and Northfield, and by redeveloping it so that there's retail underneath living spaces, we're doing smart development. This is a place where people can live, and they can walk to local restaurants, and they can shop at local stores, and they don't have to get in their car every time. This is the kind of development that I think is smart, and this is kind of development that I think the council generally supports.”

Operations at Northfield Baptist Church ended upon the sale of the building nearly two years ago after the congregation announced its closing in March 2019. With its iconic green spire and positioning at one of the township’s most trafficked corners, the church has been a community staple since being established in 1790, well before Livingston’s founding in 1813.

According to Find a Grave, an online grave-site collection created to help people find the graves of their ancestors, early burials at the Northfield Baptist Church cemetery include veterans of the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the Civil War as well as numerous other settlers of western Essex County.

The timeline for the Northfield Center redevelopment project in Livingston is unknown at this time. 

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