Updated November 4, 2014, with further information on the renovation bidding process from Village Administrator Barry Lewis.
When South Orange’s Village Hall was built in 1894, it was constructed with metal poles that hold the second floor up from above, rather than with columns that support the floor from below.
Village President Alex Torpey recently described that as one of the interesting features of the historical building, now undergoing renovation and restoration.
Village Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A Request for Proposals for the sale and redevelopment of the building was issued in August with proposals due December 3. (That date may be extended due to a printer delay; 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. The building has been undergoing a renovation process by the town. South Orange has demolished much of the interior — though not the meeting room — and has removed all asbestos.
The village plans to go out to bid for the renovation of Village Hall on November 19, with bids to be received in early January 2015.
“We have formed a working group of stakeholders who will meet to discuss possible uses and then evaluate any proposals received,” wrote Village Administrator Barry Lewis in an email. “The goal is for the group to vet any proposals and their economic impact to put us in a position to evaluate any proposals in conjunction with the bids received for the renovation work.”
Meanwhile, locals can see the progress of work completed to date in a video posted on YouTube.
“To give Villagers a sense of the work we’re undertaking,” explained Torpey, “we have created a short video tour of the building, now that most of the walls have been removed.”
Torpey showed the video at the South Orange Historical and Preservation Society symposium on Saturday, November 1. In the video, he and other town officials, including Village Engineer Sal Renda, Village Administrator Barry Lewis and Trustee Walter Clarke, walk through portions of the building and note features of the original construction.
The tour, said Torpey, begins in the lobby, in front of what was the window to the Clerk’s Office. He points out brick arches that were characteristic of the building’s first use as a fire station.
Likewise, his own office was once a changing room for fire fighters, tile floor and plumbing intact. The former police holding cells served recently as offices, and Renda showed the cement walls that once kept prisoners in. When Torpey asks Renda how he liked working in a jail cell, Renda explains that the cell phone reception was lousy.
Village Hall’s architectural centerpiece — the meeting room — is largely intact, explained Torpey on the video. “We all agreed,” said Torpey, “that we wanted to preserve this room as much as possible.” He walks viewers to the back of the room and points out a roofline that shows where an addition was put onto the building.
“This is important work,” explained Torpey, “as we preserve the character of this building and prepare it for modern use.”