Collum, Zuckerman address ongoing redevelopment in village

South Orange Village President Sheena Collum talks about ongoing redevelopment projects in town at the June 30 town hall meeting.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and Trustee Bob Zuckerman gave updates about various redevelopment projects in town at a June 30 town hall meeting that was livestreamed on Facebook, saying that, after the monthslong lockdown as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some projects will be completed later than anticipated.

Zuckerman said the Vose and Taylor project, a mixed-use building that will have 13,000 square feet of retail space, office space, 110 apartments, underground parking and municipal parking, will be moving forward when the developers obtain a demolition permit.

“The buildings that are surrounding Vose and Taylor that are part of this project are likely to be demolished by the end of the summer,” Zuckerman said during the meeting. “Then they have to go to the Planning Board for all of their approvals. That will take some time, so we don’t anticipate construction starting on that until next year.”

According to Zuckerman, the first thing to be rebuilt will be the municipal parking lot, so there will be as little impact on the surrounding local businesses on South Orange Avenue and Scotland Road as possible.

A demolition permit for the Ridge Tire building was issued, and the existing building has since been torn down. It will be turned into a daycare center, which Zuckerman said he believes will open sometime next year.

Both Zuckerman and Collum talked about the Fourth and Valley project during the meeting.

“I think anyone who’s walked or driven by has seen that the old Monty Motors is no more,” Zuckerman said. “The redevelopment plan has been approved, and now the redevelopment agreement and the financial agreements have to be approved by us at the Board of Trustees. That will happen shortly.”

Collum said the village has been working with the Academy Heights Neighborhood Association on the Fourth and Valley project. Funding for improvements in the neighborhood was included in the redevelopment plan for the project.

“We had earmarked funds for Founders Park and anything pedestrian-safety related for the Valley Street corridor, so we look forward to reengaging with the neighborhood and mapping out what those priorities will be,” Collum said. “Some will be related to having lighting in the park and having PSE&G put in an electrical outlet for when special events occur.”

The Village Hall project is behind schedule because of the pandemic, according to Collum. Sold to Landmark Hospitality in 2018, the site is going to be turned into a restaurant and beer garden.

“Obviously, the time line is different because nonessential construction was not permitted for a few months, and there are social distancing mechanisms that are put in place for construction sites, especially now that we’ve resumed that,” Collum said. “We were looking forward to a start date at the end of this year, but hopefully you can understand that that is no longer likely viable.”

In addition, Collum said that, when construction originally started, the developer discovered issues with the foundation. Additional work that wasn’t in the redevelopment plan has been added to address this.

The site of a former Wells Fargo branch was sold, and Collum said the village will have something to present to the community about the redevelopment plan within the next six weeks. It will be a mixed-use development as well, and the site will contain all of the 20 percent of area housing that is required to be affordable housing.

“We’ve been working out these financial agreements in a way where space is earmarked for a community use,” Collum said. “As we talk about activating storefronts and street fronts, this is a unique space, because typically you would want a double-loaded corridor and you would have retail facing retail. This doesn’t have that option. It faces the New Jersey Transit train wall. We are working with the arts community and looking at how we can have a cooperative, similar to the former Blockbuster, where we have makers and artists able to occupy a space and be able to lay artwork and use walls, which could be beautiful.”

A rehabilitation plan is being developed for the Irvington Avenue district, of which 20 percent of the rehabilitated units will be affordable housing units, spread across two sites.

“I would say we’re working with an architect and design team in a neighborhood that was really cognizant of the retail district,” Collum said. “Tons of land in the back is going to be preserved for green space, parking was moved underground and there are so many wonderful things in this development that help us reach our housing strategy.”

One redevelopment plan has been postponed until the next round of tax credits. On Third Street, a 100 percent affordable-housing project was going to be built with low-income units and units for people with special needs. The building would have been five stories, which Collum said is too big for the area.

“The dwelling units per acre were passing 80 in a zone that typically has 35 to 40, and we would certainly up those, but the safety of the setbacks was a concern to us,” Collum said. “We’ve had to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to make up those additional credits and also minimize some of the scale and setbacks.”

The village is hoping to have a plan for the Third Street project by the second quarter of 2021.

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