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.