The following letter was sent to the South Orange Village Board of Trustees on April 15, 2015, and is published here at the request of Matt Glass, Chair of the Board of the South Orange Village Center Alliance, the not-for-profit entity that manages the South Orange Center special improvement district.
To the Governing Body and Professional Leadership of South Orange:
The South Orange Village Center Alliance (SOVCA) is enthusiastic about the recent development in the central business district as well as the interest from private developers for more residential and retail projects in the Village Center. We believe that high-density living as well as refreshed and new retail and dining facilities can be a turning point in the health and future of our district, especially for our current merchants.
This development, however, needs to be coupled with strategic and smart advances in infrastructure and services in order to meet the demand of new in-town residents and existing residents and visitors. Two significant factors that our Board has discussed are vehicular traffic and NJ Transit capacity. New apartments at Third & Valley and eventually at Church and South Orange Avenue and beyond will put an additional strain on these essential elements of our daily lives.
Regarding traffic, we hope that county and state resources can be used to determine if and where additional turning lanes and smart traffic lights need to be installed. This supports the BOT and SOPD’s already great work on pedestrian safety which we feel is paramount to the success of any walkable business district. We are ready to be effective partners in determining the best next steps to ensure that both vehicles and pedestrians have a safe and easy transit into and through the Village.
Regarding NJTransit, South Orange is already the busiest station on the Morris & Essex line as well as the 4th busiest in the entire system. As many of the new arrivals will most likely be commuting eastbound we hope that NJTransit has a plan to increase service to a station which is already bulging at its platforms. Our Board has discussed proposing that Mountain Station be put into more effective use for people who live in the northern sections of town to perhaps relieve some stress on the main South Orange station. That, coupled with increased frequency and express service, may lessen the burden.
Regarding both of these important topics, we realize that we don’t have all the answers but we want to be sure that members of the BOT as well as the professional staff are thinking of all the right questions. Again, we’re excited about the renaissance of the Village Center and all of your work and support to make it a reality. Please let us know how we can be of assistance.
Matt Glass Chair, SOVCA Board of Directors