West Orange, Prism settle lawsuit: WO to pay $12.5M for property

WEST ORANGE, NJ — In a statement sent to the West Orange Chronicle on Sept. 13, West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi said that the township has reached a settlement with Prism Capital Partners, the former redevelopers of the downtown Edison Village redevelopment project on Main Street. The West Orange Township Council voted to reacquire the property and terminate the development deal that was approved nearly 20 years ago; a new plan for the property was introduced and passed unanimously at the Aug. 17 council meeting. Prior to that meeting, Prism filed a lawsuit against the town and West Orange officials, and said that Mayor Robert Parisi, Council President Cindy Matute-Brown and Councilman Bill Rutherford were “disingenuous in their characterization of their intent for the downtown property.” The lawsuit also named Whoopi Goldberg’s company, Whoopi Inc., as a defendant, arguing the company was conspiring with the town to use the land for a sound studio.

According to Parisi, the property will be sold back to the town for $12.5 million as is. The property includes Barton Press, various properties on Ashland Avenue, and a single-family lot on Babcock Place. The settlement does not include the Phase 1 apartment building, which has already been developed.

“The township shall have the right to obtain an environmental analysis of the properties within 30 days. At the closing, full mutual releases shall be provided between and among all parties and persons,” Parisi’s statement read. “The releases will acknowledge that all of Prism Green’s redevelopment or other rights are extinguished.

“The township will be assigned an environmental escrow in the amount of approximately $316,000 held by the Department of Environmental Protection. The township will assume all remaining environmental liabilities.”

Closing on the property will occur no later than Dec. 31. Until the town assumes control of the property, Prism will maintain the property. A formal purchase and sale agreement will be drafted and finalized in the coming weeks.

“The township is proud of the relationship with Prism Partners and the success of the Edison Lofts and Edison Mews, transforming the old Battery Factory, as part of the original Thomas Edison Manufacturing Complex, into beautiful luxury apartments,” Parisi said. “The apartments are 95-percent occupied, demanding high rents, with two retail uses preparing to move into the retail space in the coming months, and in the full 12 months of 2022, the complex will produce more than $1,200,000 in revenue for the municipality.”

Parisi also said the settlement and purchase of the land takes a step in a new direction for Main Street. The town will begin a new plan for the 20 acres of the Phase 2 redevelopment zone, as well as the Phase 3 section.

“The first step of this process has already begun, as the Planning Board recently approved an amended redevelopment plan for the zone which creates the parameters for a new vision,” Parisi said. “These approved amendments will be presented to the Township Council for final review and approval.”

In a statement sent to the West Orange Chronicle on Sept. 13, Eugene Diaz, a principal partner at Prism, said the settlement is amicable.

“The parties worked out an amicable settlement that will allow the township to take the downtown redevelopment area in a different direction, one that will complement and add to the success of the Edison Lofts and Edison Mews project,” Diaz said. “Prism is happy to have played an instrumental role as the catalyst to bring new life and opportunities to this area of the township, and we wish all of West Orange good luck with the future plans.”