Government Maplewood Towns

Developer Buys Long-Vacant Church St. Lot in Downtown S. Orange

Church St. lot

A long-vacant parcel of buildings and land on a prime corner of downtown South Orange will finally be developed, as the new owner plans to demolish the derelict structures and build a parking lot and, eventually, a mixed-use development.

The property, at the corner of South Orange Avenue and Church Street, was purchased by Ed Ayuso, principal in EEA Industries, LLC, which recently developed The Gateway, the mixed-use apartment and retail complex also on South Orange Avenue.

Ayuso said he will demolish the buildings and construct an interim 50-space parking lot, with an eye toward developing the property into another mixed-use residential and retail building with a parking structure for tenants, shoppers and commuters.

“I bought the lot and am looking to develop it,” said Ayuso.

“The Village is thrilled with the change in ownership,” said Township Administrator Barry Lewis, “especially given Ed’s successful record with The Gateway.” Lewis said South Orange has already approved Ayuso’s plans for interim parking.

Village Trustees and Ayuso will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking on Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 11 a.m.

The buildings will be demolished sometime within the next two weeks, said Lewis. The work will be funded by $100,000 from Jonathan Rose Companies, developer of the 3rd and Valley project, as part of its original agreement with the village on that project. Ayuso will pay for the remainder of the costs.

The Church Street property was long owned by Sayid Nagim, who owns numerous properties in South Orange. At one point, the building contained roughly 20 apartments, said Lewis. Eventually, it fell into disrepair — in fact, recently chunks of stucco began falling off the building.

Nagim has been selling off some of his properties, said Lewis, as some have gone into foreclosure.

New Jersey Transit owns several of the parcels of land. Ayuso hopes to partner with them to develop the entire property.

“This is another step forward in the overall progress of South Orange,” said Lewis, who said the interim parking lot should be ready in two months or less.

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