Irvington, Orange and East Orange discuss development at joint seminar

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ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Irvington, Orange and East Orange followed up last year’s first Tri-Community Commercial and Residential Development seminar with the same event on March 10 at Sandwiches Unlimited in Orange, with officials from all three towns updating residents and business owners on upcoming and ongoing redevelopment projects happening. Jadette Williams and Osner Charles represented Irvington from the Economic Development and Grants Oversight Department; Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren and Economic Development Director Laquana Best participated; and Essex County Commissioner Tyshammie Cooper represented East Orange. All three towns presented and answered questions at the end of the seminar.

Irvington has eight redevelopment projects in various stages of progress. On 21st Street in the East Ward, a large project includes an apartment building, town homes, a community center and an urban farm. Apartment buildings are also being built in the East Ward on Ellis Avenue and on Grove Street.

In the West Ward, mixed-use buildings with apartments and retail space are being built at 722 Chancellor Ave., 832-840 Chancellor Ave. and 750-780 Chancellor Ave. The final project in the West Ward is on Stuyvesant Avenue. In the North Ward, apartment buildings are being built at 875 18th Ave. and 885 18th Ave.

“One of the biggest issues that we noticed during the pandemic was, when it came down to businesses receiving loans and assistance, their paperwork wasn’t straight,” Charles said about Irvington trying to help local businesses stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Businesses all across the state closed down because they did not receive the proper paperwork. Our goal right now is to make sure we can connect them with lenders and different opportunities to help grow their businesses.”

The state began accepting applications for cannabis sale licenses on March 15, and Charles said that the legalization of cannabis will be a resource for not only business owners, but the towns in which the licenses are issued and dispensaries open.

“We’ve been having conversations with cultivators who are interested in opening dispensaries in the township,” he said. “That creates jobs. The goal we have now is not only to make sure that those businesses are in the city, but also to create a new industry. The new industry that can be especially marketable to black and brown communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. We want to make sure that our folks here in Irvington get the opportunity.”

Charles said the economic opportunity goes hand in hand with the redevelopment being done currently. Another goal is to have people both living and working in town.

“That’s one of our ultimate goals, to make sure that residents in town have the opportunity from an economic perspective to participate in the money that’s being made,” he said.

Warren and Best detailed the six ongoing projects in Orange. All of them are scheduled to be completed by 2023; several will be completed this spring. One of them is the Orange Crossing project on Reock Street, which will have five studio apartments, 30 one-bedroom apartments, 15 two-bedroom apartments and 40 parking spaces. The other project that will be completed this spring is on Mount Vernon Avenue, known as the Mount Vernon Plaza project. There will be nine one-bedroom apartments, 10 two-bedroom apartments and 19 parking spaces.

“One of the things we face is a tax burden,” Warren said at the event. “Every mayor wants to relieve the tax burden off the backs of homeowners. One of the ways we can do that is try to build projects that will garner revenue for our town.”

He pointed out that the projects that are being built on the Reock Street properties will be bringing Orange more tax dollars after they are developed because development will increase their value. Some of the projects have agreements for payments in lieu of taxes; others do not.

“The taxes that we were receiving were $17,000 and, when it’s finished, we’ll be looking at between $100,00 and $135,000,” Warren said of Reock Street. “On the other property on Reock, we were getting $10,000 and now we’ll get $246,000. Those are the kinds of projects that spur economic growth and allow us to take the burden off of taxpayers.”

An apartment building on Highland Avenue will have 138 apartments and 213 parking spaces and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2023. On South Day Street, a six-story apartment building with 102 parking spaces is also expected to be completed in fall 2023. On Crane Street, a building with 65 studio apartments, 117 one-bedroom apartments, 23 two-bedroom apartments, four three-bedroom apartments and 299 parking spaces will be built; it is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023.

“Each of these requires 0.7 parking spaces per unit on average,” Warren said. “All of these projects exceed the parking requirement. We’re working on a project where we’ll build a parking garage partially for residential and commercial units and partially for the town that will bring in revenue. We’ve been creative about how we bring in revenue and how we build.”

Cooper, the commissioner representing Essex County’s third district, which includes part of Newark’s West Ward, East Orange, Orange and South Orange, lives in East Orange and served as a member of its city council from 2013 to 2018. She discussed the $400 million project known as the Crossings, an apartment complex being built with approximately 700 units where ShopRite is currently located at Brick Church Plaza. Office and retail space is also included in the project plans.

According to Cooper, two different apartment complexes were recently built on South Harrison Street and Park Avenue, and there are ongoing projects on South Harrison, William and Halsted streets.

“The city also has $1.5 million is grant funding that they set aside for small business owners,” Cooper said. “I encourage you to reach out to the director to find out more about the retail business opportunities and also the redevelopment opportunities that the city has.”

Switching to talking about the county, Cooper said about half of the county’s budget is spent on contracts each year. The commissioners and county administrators want more businesses to respond to bids and requests for proposals for contracts.

“Oftentimes, we only get one respondent,” Cooper said. “There’s no competition at all. Don’t be afraid to send something in, because you never know. This past year we gave out a contract to a vendor to water the plants at the zoo, for just the summer months, for $50,000. Only one person responded. I think more businesses could do that.”

The Tri-Community Commercial and Residential Development seminar was sponsored by the Business & Professional Association of the Oranges, Irvington Chamber of Commerce, Irvington Springfield Avenue Business Improvement District, and Orange Chamber of Commerce.

Photos by Amanda Valentovic


Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct an incorrect name.