Business & Finance

Essex Green and Executive Drive Designated as “Area in Need of Redevelopment”

ddd6bae4e72e766ae40a_WP_20180109_18_40_43_Pro.jpg
Mayor Robert Parisi oversees the oath of office ceremony for new council president Susan McCartney. Credits: Alan Grossman
06f2fdc4afe5142740e5_WP_20180109_20_12_30_Pro.jpg
Resident Robert Daniel accuses the administration of wanting tax abatements for Essex Green in order to get a space for the Public Works Department, which needs to be moved. Credits: Alan Grossman
fc06ca5b041e3e8b75d7_WP_20180109_19_54_11_Pro.jpg
Attorney Michael Kalmus says he was told there were no availabilities in Executive Drive office buildings even with the high vacancy rate. Credits: Alan Grossman
9d13f4cd972b8d967f6d_WP_20180109_19_02_57_Pro.jpg
Tammy Williams invites the community to the MLK Day Celebration and Freedom Awards on Jan. 15 from 10 a.m. to noon at The Life Christian Church in West Orange.  Credits: Alan Grossman
ddd6bae4e72e766ae40a_WP_20180109_18_40_43_Pro.jpg

WEST ORANGE, NJ – After more than three hours of debate among members of the West Orange Township Council and the public, the council voted 4-1 to approve a resolution designating the Essex Green and Executive Drive area as an “area in need of redevelopment” consistent with recommendations recently made by the West Orange Planning Board. 

Councilman Joe Krakoviak was the only council member to vote against this resolution at the council meeting on Tuesday. All 16 West Orange residents who spoke about this resolution during public comment also strongly opposed it.

The main concern cited by most of the residents was that this resolution would open the door to tax abatements for a property that was bought for $97 million in March 2016 by Clarion Partners, which has more than $43 billion in real estate holdings worldwide.

Sign Up for E-News

Before the residents lambasted the resolution, township counsel Richard Trenk laid out the case as to why the planning board voted to call Essex Green and Executive Drive “an area in need of redevelopment.”

In his presentation, Trenk said that the planning board found that the buildings were obsolete, which has led to high vacancy rates.

According to a report prepared for the township by professional planner Paul Grygiel, Executive Drive has 403,000 square feet of office space and currently has a 58-percent vacancy rate. In addition, the report states that there is 330,000 square feet in the shopping center, which now has a 33-percent vacancy rate. The report called Essex Green “outmoded,” Trenk said.  

“Why should the township get involved in the redevelopment of this area?” said Trenk. “By doing so, [the township] will have input in the plan. We want input on this central piece of property for the entire town, and make sure it meets the township’s needs in the next 50-to-100 years.”

Among the first residents to object to the resolution was Adam Kramer, who called the resolution “ill-advised public policy.”

“Let market forces decide what to do with the land…Let Clarion Partners take the risk—not West Orange taxpayers,” said Kramer.

Referring to the high office-vacancy rates, attorney Michael Kalmus said he was told that there were no availabilities in the Executive Drive buildings when he inquired last year about moving his firm there.

“We ultimately moved to the Eisenhower Corporate Center,” he said. “I was later told that the developer is purposely not leasing spaces for what appears to be ulterior motives.”   

Resident Kevin Malanga said the area must be blighted to be eligible for redevelopment.

“Most of the corporate buildings in our town need updating,” said Malanga. “Does that mean they are eligible for redevelopment? It certainly does not.”

In resident Robert Daniel’s comments, he referred to the Phase 2 of the Edison Redevelopment Project, which calls for the moving of the West Orange Department of Public Works and animal shelter.

“Don’t lie to us,” he said. “Stop the disinformation. Township officials are looking to give a tax abatement to Clarion to get a new location for the Public Works Department.”

Clare Sylvestri asked the council to look into why the Essex Green occupancy rate has gone from 96 percent when Clarion bought it two years ago to only 77 percent occupancy now.

“Why has the vacancy rate ballooned since Clarion took over?” she asked.

After taking in the comments, which included personal attacks against council members, newly instated Council President Susan McCartney spoke first about why she favored this resolution. She said that calling this an “area in need of redevelopment” is not synonymous with giving the developer tax abatements.

“By being part of the redevelopment plan, it will help us redesign and enhance 70 acres in the heart of our town,” said McCartney. “That is what we are voting on now with this resolution.”

Krakoviak said he was voting against the resolution in part because he estimated that the township would be making approximately $4 million more in property taxes now if Prism Capital Partners did not receive tax abatements to redevelop the Edison Battery Factory property. Krakoviak added that Essex Green provides the township with $4.5 million in annual tax revenues, and he did not want to jeopardize this revenue.  

“The Edison Battery Factory property would never have been built without tax abatements, therefore the township has lost no money on this agreement,” said Councilman Victor Cirilo, who admitted that it was “a stretch to declare Essex Green and Executive Drive in need of redevelopment,” but that he was voting for the resolution because office parks are “becoming obsolete on a national scale.”

“The area can easily become a dump if we leave it to market forces,” he said.

Councilman Jerry Guarino said he was voting for the resolution because he is “looking for what will create higher property values throughout West Orange and make it a better place to live.”

“I don’t feel I’m serving the community unless I say yes to this resolution, and give the administration a chance to get us the best deal,” said Councilwoman Michelle Casalino.

The four council members who voted in favor of the resolution expressed their dismay about the personal attacks they have received by resolution opponents, and asked for a more civil discourse in the future.

The next town council meeting will be held on Jan. 23.

Pictured above:

Mayor Robert Parisi oversees the oath of office ceremony for new council president Susan McCartney.

Resident Robert Daniel accuses the administration of wanting tax abatements for Essex Green in order to get a space for the Public Works Department, which needs to be moved.

Attorney Michael Kalmus says he was told there were no availabilities in Executive Drive office buildings even with the high vacancy rate.

Tammy Williams invites the community to the MLK Day Celebration and Freedom Awards on Jan. 15 from 10 a.m. to noon at The Life Christian Church in West Orange. 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

West Orange

Newark Councilwoman Launches Bid to Become First Female Mayor

January 17, 2018

NEWARK, NJ — Newark Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins began her campaign to become the first female mayor of New Jersey's largest city, attacking the record and character of Mayor Ras Baraka.

Chaneyfield Jenkins also framed her run within the struggle of women in Newark and across America to assert themselves as part the growing movement against sexual assault ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_6d321ec9b97c5776a3cb_cruz_from_ap

Sun, January 28, 10:00 AM

Temple B'nai Abraham, Livingston

Victor Cruz, Former New York Giant, to Speak at ...

Sports

Carousel_image_6b43b5160fdb24b2f144_jan_28_jog

Sun, January 28, 1:00 PM

Our Lady of the Lake School, Verona

Our Lady of the Lake School Open House

Education

Carousel_image_29e48a9344d9033494d0_feb_13_jpg

Tue, February 13, 9:00 AM

Our Lady of the Lake School, Verona

Our Lady of the Lake School Open House

Education

West Orange Classic Film Festival Schedule for 2018

January 16, 2018

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Held on Sundays throughout January and February in the town where Thomas Edison invented movies, the West Orange Classic Film Festival has returned for its thirteenth season, once again giving lovers of cinema a chance to experience their favorite films on the big screen.

This year’s festival runs the gamut from slapstick comedy to character-driven thrillers, as ...

Follow the Money

In 2013 a man in the UK cleaned out his junk drawer and absently tossed an old hard drive dismantled from a Dell Computer into the trash.  The hard drive, rusting in landfill somewhere in Wales, contains 7500 bitcoins. 

  

At the time, his staggering loss was about $4 million.  But if he had wisely invested his failing hard drive in a bank safe deposit box his ...