Essex County announces plans to construct modern Cherry Blossom Welcome Center

NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. announced Oct. 13 that plans to construct a larger, modern Cherry Blossom Welcome Center in Branch Brook Park are underway. The project includes demolishing the existing Cherry Blossom Welcome Center and replacing it with a new, 11,000-square-foot structure.

“Every spring, Branch Brook Park bursts to life with the blossoming of our 5,200 cherry blossom trees. Even though we host a variety of events to celebrate the trees, the small size of the current Cherry Blossom Center limits what we can do indoors and year-round to maintain interest in the park and trees,” DiVincenzo said. “The larger building will help us expand our year-round programming in the park and will provide the public with an up-to-date facility to gather and hold events. It will be another way residents will be able to enjoy our historic parks system.”

“Branch Brook Park was an extraordinary place growing up. And it’s great to witness that the people who come to the park today appreciate the improvements and regard the park as their own backyard,” Senate Majority Leader and Deputy Chief of Staff M. Teresa Ruiz said. 

“All the things Joe has done to improve Branch Brook Park has benefited the community and helped raise property values in the neighborhood,” Newark Councilman Luis Quintana said.

“This building will be the first impression when people visit Branch Brook Park and the cherry blossoms. We owe our thanks to Joe D. for making that a good impression,” Thomas Dougherty, of the Branch Brook Park Alliance, said.

“Branch Brook Park is the reason I am in Newark. I thank Joe DiVincenzo for making this park come to life,” Newark historian Elizabeth Del Tufo said.

The new building will be a one-floor, 11,000-square foot, handicap-accessible building. The centerpiece of the building will be a large community room with a capacity to seat approximately 250 people. There also will be a kitchen, restrooms that are accessible from inside and outside of the building, and storage rooms. A lobby area will be equipped with gallery and display cases, the imitation cherry blossom tree from the original building will be relocated to the lobby and the walls of the lobby will be decorated with a themed cherry blossom mural.

The front of the building will have a covered entryway and driveway. A patio will be located behind the building. The flagpole will be relocated to enhance access to the building. The two bocce courts will be repositioned on the right side of the building. The project will also include enhanced landscaping, planting new trees, and installation of benches, trash receptacles and water fountains.

During the demolition of the existing building and construction, the parking lot and playground adjacent to the building will be closed to the public from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

DiCara Rubino Architects, of Wayne, were awarded a professional services contract for $562,500 to design the demolition plan of the existing building and design the new building. Caravella Demolition, of East Hanover, was awarded a publicly bid contract for $270,734 to perform the demolition work. Tsivicos Enterprises, of Neptune, was awarded a publicly bid contract for $9,890,000 to construct the new building. The Essex County Department of Public Works will monitor the project. The project is being funded with grants from the state of New Jersey, the American Rescue Plan and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. The building is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2023.