Revitalizing the Central Business District

Concerned about the condition of its Central Business District, South Orange hired the Atlantic Group consultants in 1994 to determine how to best revitalize the CDB to better serve the public. Their assessment recommended streetscape improvements, more efficient land use for retail and residential use and amenities, such as a cinema and commuter parking. The Village deemed the area "in need of redevelopment" under New Jersey law to speed up the development process.

The study recommended starting redevelopment with a group of empty stores on Sloan Street next to the NJT train station. An agreement was negotiated between New Jersey Transit, the developer, Locomotive, Inc. and the Village to renovate the seven empty retail stores with 12,000 sq. ft of retail and restaurant space. Sloan Street was completely renovated with new pavers, landscaping, lighting and pedestrian amenities. The storefronts have been fully occupied since the renovations.

During this period, the Village committed to make major streetscape improvements to South Orange Avenue, starting with the section west of the train trestle. South Orange Avenue was narrowed from four to three traffic lanes, sidewalks were widened and "bumpouts" installed at key intersections to make the street more pedestrian friendly. Electrified gaslights replaced the old cobra head lamps, brick paver sidewalks were installed with extensive landscaping and sitting areas. After completion of the Western section of South Orange Avenue, streetscape improvements were extended eastward to Prospect Street.

The Atlantic Group recommended development of new apartments in the CDB next to the railroad station to bring people to live and shop downtown. They identified a car dealership on Third Street as a prime candidate for initial residential development. In 1998, the Village received a proposal from the property owner/developer L_COR and named them developer to build 200 luxury one and two bedroom rental apartments and approximately 350 parking spaces in two four_story buildings with interior courtyards. Amenities include an outdoor pool, clubhouse and exercise rooms, a business center and concierge services. It is fully occupied.  

An additional 40 units of one, two and three bedroom luxury apartments were built by a private developer on two Church Street sites. Church Street Commons, located on the west side of Church Street, contains 16 units with 22 parking spaces. The second site, on the east side of Church Street, features 24 units and 35 parking spaces. This is a perfect example of how the Village's investment in the downtown has convinced property owners and developers to commit purely private money to our business district.

Other major projects proposed for the CBD include the South Orange Performing Arts Center, the former ShopRite supermarket and the Beifus Mercedes dealer site.

New Market (South Orange Ave and Vose Ave)

The owners of ShopRite closed the store, citing size limitations.  The Village then purchased various parcels from the several owners via a friendly condemnation action.

During the condemnation process, landfill (garbage) was discovered when the developer chose to add parking below ground.  This landfill will be removed at the developer's expense with financial assistance from the New Jersey Department of Commerce.  The Planning Board approved the initial application in June 2003 for 96 units on Vose Avenue with 10,000 square feet of retail and 15,000 square feet for the grocery store.

For a year the Village worked with the developer to lower the project's density.  A revised plan, converting the rentals to for-sale condominiums and decreasing the number of units from 96 to 80, reduced the visual impact of the development, making it more appropriate to the residential community that borders the downtown.

Current Status:
This project includes a new gourmet market on South Orange Avenue, condos on Vose Avenue and a parking deck to accommodate shoppers and residents. The 13,500 square foot market will be owned and operated by the Garden of Eden, a small NYC chain of up-scale stores. The residential building will be built by Sterling Homes.

Sterling Properties and South Mountain Development Company are the development team. The Planning Board has approved plans to rehabilitate the old ShopRite into a new upscale market, and for a new commercial/residential building on Vose Avenue. The Village is finalizing the sale of properties and a developers agreement has been signed.