The South Orange-Maplewood School District is not the only public entity in the towns with aging buildings and years of neglected repairs to deal with; South Orange is currently working its way through numerous plans for selling or repairing old buildings.
With the former Village Hall sold to Landmark Hospitality for restoration as a restaurant/beer garden/catering hall, improvements to the Skate House completed, South Orange police headquarters under repair and plans for the South Orange Public Library in the mix, the South Orange Village Board of Trustees reviewed plans to renovate the Baird — the building that is the center of Recreation Department activity for town — at its October 22, 2018 meeting. (See presentation below or find it on southorange.org here.)
Trustee Karen Hilton has been working with the Summit NJ-based architecture firm The Biber Partnership AIA on plans for renovating the recreation complex on Mead Street across from Cameron Field.
According to the News-Record, Hilton told the Trustees, “This building is a mess and it needs immediate repair. … Many hundred of residents use this building every day, from our most mature residents to our very young and every age in between. We’re trying to find the most cost-effective plan as possible and retain the historic essence of the building.”
Hilton noted that some major repairs on the Baird have already taken place, including the front entrance/porch and bathrooms.
However, The Biber Partnership outlined many more proposed repairs and improvements that included:
- Repairs to the roof, siding, trim and windows
- Removal of the rear addition (circa 1970s/80s) and replacement with a new addition
- A game room at the front of the building
- A coffee counter on the first floor
- A field house for sports equipment storage
- Room for the Pierro Gallery to expand
- A cafe on the second floor porch
- New multipurpose rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors with removable walls
- A new hallway to access the gym
- ADA accessibility improvements
- Removing the exterior fire escapes and replacing them with stair towers
- Reformatting the 3rd floor 100-seat theater
- An exterior terrace to access the 2nd floor
- Installation of insulation/sound barriers between floors
The plans have not yet been approved by the South Orange Board of Trustees.
Cost is the “elephant in the room,” said Collum, noting that other capital projects such as the police department repairs, communications systems, road work and the proposed library improvements, plus the school district facilities bond, would be impacting taxpayers. However, Collum warned: “If we don’t do something now, this is going to cost more three or four years down the line.”
When and if approved, Collum said the proposed renovations were projected to take 18-24 months to complete.
Village Green has reached out to Hilton and Collum for updates on the projected costs for the renovation and the timetable for approval and construction. We will update this story when they have a chance to reply. During the meeting, Collum noted that any updates would be released to the press.
Trustee Steve Schnall pointed out that the Township is spending money on repairs now — such as removing raccoons living in the eaves of the building — making it in the town’s and taxpayers’ interest to approve major renovations in order to stem the bleeding on continued emergency repairs.
Read the News-Record’s detailed report of the presentation here.
View the video of the October 22, 2018 South Orange Village Board of Trustees meeting here (southorange.org). The Baird presentation begins at 54:00.