Updated Nov. 19, 2014, 3:30 p.m. The story has been updated to reflect the fact that South Orange is going out to bid on Village Hall renovations on Nov. 20, not Nov. 19 as was originally planned.
South Orange is scheduled to go out to bid for further renovation of historic Village Hall November 20, with bids due in early January 2015.
Last Monday, November 10, Township Administrator Barry Lewis said that the Village was “very close to finalizing the plans and going out to bid. We want to have the consensus of the board and the authorization to go out to bid.”
Toward that end, Eric Holterman of HMR Architects was on hand to present the program and plans for the Village Hall renovations to the Board of Trustees (see the presentation below).
Holterman noted that HMR had been working on the project “for a few years,” and had “looked at several options.” Ultimately, he said, HMR had arranged the space for “future flexibility but also respecting the historic nature of the building and some of the important public spaces that you have.”
Holterman called Village Hall “so important and such a great building.”
Holterman noted that the staircase leading from the first to the second floor was moved from the corner of the building in the 1920s. He said that the program would be keeping “the stair were it is so that much of the second floor remains in the same configuration.”
The biggest changes, according to Holterman, would be recognizing the side entrance as the “de facto main entrance” but also recognizing the front entrance and reopening that.
“We really wanted to clean up the circulation,” said Holterman. “We’re losing a little architecture; however, we are keeping the staircase going up.” Holterman said that the basement staircase would be moved and “tucked” under the upper stair to create more space. “We’re making more of a larger open public lobby,” said Holterman.
Holterman reported that the rail and the dais in the meeting room were being restored; however, “most of the wood paneling needed to come down with the abatement.” The plan was for wainscoting to be restored around the meeting room. Although there will be a new drop-down screen from the ceiling for presentations and a window to the staircase to let in more light, the plan calls for much of the main meeting room to “look very much the same.”
Trustee Steve Schnall was concerned that there would be sufficient conference room space. Holterman explained that the plan called for the flexible use of rooms to create up to three conference room spaces.
Holterman also explained that the new HVAC equipment takes up much of the basement space due to the nature of the geothermal system which is comprised of many smaller units. In addition to the HVAC system, the basement will house a dedicated IT room. He said that the basement, although drier due to the new HVAC system, still would not be recommended for storage.
Trustee Sheena Collum was concerned that meeting rooms be available to the public. Holterman said that the intention of the layout is to allow the lobby and public rooms to be left unlocked while offices are locked so that the public can use the public spaces.
In response to a question from Trustee Walter Clarke, Holterman noted that flourescent lighting had been switched to LED lighting as the price of LED had significantly dropped.
Holterman added that the exterior design includes a new planting plan and bike parking hardware.
“In general, where there is significant historic fabric we are restoring that,” said Holterman. He explained that since restoration was mostly confined to the clerk’s office, the staircase, and the meeting room upstairs, HMR had “pretty free reign on renovating the rest of the building as simple, straightforward, modern, workable office space.”
Thus far, the Village has allocated approximately $6.9 million for asbestos abatement and renovation; however, Township Administrator Lewis noted in an email to The Village Green that that number does not take into account the $839,000 in grants that the Village has procured thus far for the project.
The Village has produced a video on the progress of abatement and renovation work completed to date and posted it on YouTube.
Although renovations are going forward to return Village offices to the historic hall from their temporary location at 76 South Orange Avenue, the video is geared to be helpful in the potential sale of the building. In August, the Village issued a Request for Proposals for the sale and redevelopment of the building with proposals due December 3. (See the RFP documents here.) The RFP includes a mandatory requirement that the building’s exterior be preserved and restored in compliance an historic preservation easement.