SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Board of Trustees approved a change order for the renovation project at the Baird Community Center at its Aug. 9 meeting, adding another $189,970.49 to the total project cost with a 5-0 vote; Trustee Summer Jones was absent. The building has been closed since 2018 while a complete renovation is underway; the progress has been slowed by unplanned circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and asbestos found during demolition.
“It’s a structurally necessary change order, which is based on unforeseen conditions in a couple of areas,” Trustee Bill Haskins said at the meeting. “We had a previous change order we approved for some more minor structural issues. These are two areas where it was more major.”
According to Haskins, the framing of a wall in the Baird that supported the gym was found to be rotten and deteriorated. A shed was on one side of the wall and cladding on both sides, so it wasn’t discovered to be in need of repair until renovations were already underway.
“The real cost in this change order is at that location and another location adjacent to the old printing press room. We discovered two areas where there was basically very little foundation,” Haskins said. “Old buildings like this were built on rubble foundations, which is essentially rocks stacked up with a little bit of mortar. The foundation was in very bad shape or pretty much nonexistent.”
The majority of the cost of the change order is for shoring, which supports the building while the foundation is being repaired. New concrete footings will be placed in those two locations.
“The building kind of has to float above these areas where the new footings get cast,” Haskins said. “The other cost is the masonry footings, but once they are cast everything can be rebuilt and supporting the building properly.”
He said he went to see the building in person and called the change order “tough and expensive, but fair.” Aside from upcoming roof repairs, there probably won’t be any more change orders on the Baird renovation, according to Haskins.
“After that point, we will have the exterior envelope pretty much taken care of on the building and hopefully we’ll be moving into more minor changes,” Haskins said.
Village President Sheena Collum said at the meeting that change orders should be expected in relation to large-scale renovation projects, such as the one being undertaken at the Baird.
“You do build in significant contingencies for buildings as old as the Baird,” she said. “It’s generally anticipated that you will experience a change order throughout any type of capital project.” According to the village website, every single room in the building will be renovated, and a new, multipurpose fieldhouse gymnasium will be built. Other work on the building includes a new HVAC system, electrical upgrades, lighting upgrades, indoor noise remediation, the addition of a sprinkler system, an elevator, fire stairs and ADA accessibility.
The new building is designed by the architecture firm Biber Partnership in Summit, and the renovation contract was awarded to Frankoski Construction in East Orange. The new addition is scheduled to be completed by April 2022, exterior improvements and existing renovations are scheduled to be completed by August 2022, a certificate of occupancy should be issued by September 2022 and the final completion of the project is scheduled for December 2022.