Village Project Updates
South Orange is continually improving the facilities and infrastructure throughout the Village. Check back often to get the latest updates on all the projects.
Police Department - 201 South Orange Avenue
The Village recently awarded a contract for a full renovation of the Police Headquarters and work is underway. The project will completely renovate virtually every aspect of this approximately 50 year old building. The Police Department will continue to operate during the renovation project and public access points will be varied but conspicuously identified. The project is projected to take 16 months to complete.
Connett Memorial Library - 59 Scotland Road
What is this building and what is it used for?
This building is the original library, built in 1896, extended in 1930, and added to the Montrose Park Historic District National Register as a Key Building in 1997. When the library required a larger space to meet community needs, the Village purchased additional land and built the current library building which opened in 1968. The Connett building is still dedicated to library purposes and, since the 1980’s, has been used in part by Electronic Information and Education Service [EIES] of NJ with the mission to “…provide in an efficient manner, immediate, direct and convenient access to the printed word, to those individuals whose ability to read is severely impaired by a visual disability.”
What’s happening here now?
The Connett Memorial Library had its slate roof completely replaced in 2016-2017 as an essential first step in protecting, rehabilitating, and, once again, extending library space to meet community needs and interests. This project was completed by the Village of South Orange and supported by funding from the Essex County Recreation & Open Space Trust Fund 2014 Local Aid Program.
The Village was recently notice that it has been recommended for a $500,000 New Jersey Historic Trust Grant, which is awaiting legislative approval, to offset a significant portion of the cost of renovating the exterior of the building, including replacing all windows and doors and substantial, much needed masonry and brick repairs and replacements, which will complete the protection and securing of this important structure.
What happens next?
The Library Board has developed a vision for the future that recreates spaces with flexibility and sustainability so as to serve vital community needs for generations to come. The planning process has included a town-wide survey and community meetings which identified a desire for a community meeting room, individual and small group rooms for meeting and study, space designed for more effective teen use of the library, and a greatly expanded Children’s Room.
The Library Board, in conjunction with the Village, secured a grant which allowed a thorough assessment of both library buildings and the development of a master plan. The centerpiece of the architects’ plan is the unique opportunity to bring both library buildings together with a link that becomes a new and vibrant space itself- a place of comings and goings, of meetings and greetings, of access to all library spaces and services, of creativity and community.
What’s the back story of this building?
In November 1864, William Beebe, a merchant, invited some friends to his South Orange home to discuss the creation of a local library. The idea was well-received and so the South Orange Library Association began. In 1895, after moving locations several times, the Library Board looked to obtain a larger and more permanent space. Eugene Connett offered his own land at Scotland Rd and Taylor Pl for a library provided that $7,500 could be raised to construct the building. The money was raised and the South Orange Free Library opened to the public in 1896. In the 1920’s, the Library Board recognized the need to extend the library due to increasing use and growing collections. The addition at the back of the building, opened in 1930, doubled the size of library and included the first Children’s Room.
Following the replacement of the Cameron Field Playground in 2012 and the Farrell Field Playground in 2014, the Grove Park Playground was replaced this summer of 2017. While the age and condition of the playgrounds made replacement desirable, changes in various guidelines and regulations also made the old equipment in these parks obsolete and replacement necessary. The goal of the Department of Recreation is to gradually upgrade all of the playgrounds located in the Village with a variety of equipment and play options.
Baird Community Center - 5 Mead Street
A new entrance was recently completed at the Baird Community Center on Mead Street. An ADA grant from Essex County provided partial funding for this project, which provides a new ramp for handicap accessibility. While the primary purpose was to improve accessibility, the design of the entrance is historically compatible with the old building and creates a beautiful entrance and surrounding porch area that residents of the community can be proud of.
The Village recently awarded a contract to renovate the Baird bathrooms and bring them into ADA compliance, also with significant Essex County CDBG Grant funding.
The Village is proceeding with plans to completely renovate the entire Baird building and is in the process of retaining a project architect to complete the plans and specifications to go out to bid. The improvements at the Baird will include a roof replacement, repairs and restoration of the building exterior, including the replacement of the 2nd story porch, and a complete renovation of community center interior.
The Paddle Tennis courts will be removed to allow for better access to the new field house, rear of the building as well as more effective storm water management for the Baird Center building site. The poor condition and age of these courts does not allow for relocation or renovation. The current plan is to place new paddle tennis courts in the park area currently occupied by the Cameron Field Tennis Courts near our pool. The Village plans to re-purpose the Cameron court area into a more effective and better utilized recreation site. The Village plans to put out a request for proposals later this year to redevelop the Cameron courts in its entirety.
The Baird Center project design phase is almost complete and The Biber Partnership and is going to make a public presentation at the Board of Trustee’s meeting on March 25th. This presentation will address all of the changes that have been made since the original building design draft was presented to the public. This is a very exciting time for recreation in South Orange and we hope to start construction in the last quarter of 2019. The reconstruction of the Baird is anticipated to take 2 years. In the meantime, Department Staff will be relocated and we are working on finding alternate indoor space in South Orange and/or Maplewood for some popular department programs.
Meadowland Park Tennis Courts
The deteriorated tennis courts at the Baird were removed and replace with eight brand new, state of tennis courts, complete iwth all new lighting. These new courts are the home of a thriving tennis community, recreation department lessons and both girls and boys Columbia High School tennis teams.
The skate house located near the Duck Pond in Meadowland Park in the final stages of reconstruction and will be opening in the very near future. The roof and windows have been replaced and the interior of the building has been completely refurbished. Once completed, the space will include new bathrooms and a heated and air conditioned space to be used for Village programming, events and/or meetings.
South Orange Pool
There are a few major structural repairs required at the South Orange Community Pool. A new filter system is needed for the main pool, as is decking and gutter repairs. While final planning has not yet been completed, the Village hopes to begin this work in the fall of 2017. While the mandatory removal of the 3 meter diving board this year was disappointing, the Village is investigating other amusement options for the future.