South Orange Looking to Buy Parking Lot From NJ Transit

0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail


Current configuration of the SOPAC/NJT Parking Lot. Courtesy of the Township of South Orange Village

Current configuration of the SOPAC/NJT Parking Lot. Courtesy of the Township of South Orange Village

The Township of South Orange Village is looking to purchase the commuter parking lot adjacent to the South Orange Performing Arts Center and train station with the aim of improving circulation and safety, increasing commuter and shopper parking and connecting the Rahway River Corridor Project.

The preliminary concept plan includes the construction of a parking garage on the western portion of the parking lot, improved circulation for jitneys and commuters near the train station and SOPAC, designated shopper parking and a riverside plaza and greenway — as well as private mixed-use development.

Village President Sheena Collum offered an update on the effort at the August 22 Board of Trustees meeting, briefing Trustees on a presentation that was made to NJ Transit’s Real Estate and Economic Development Department earlier in August.

Preliminary proposal for NJT/SOPAC parking lot

Preliminary proposal for NJT/SOPAC parking lot

Collum noted that the idea of acquiring and transforming the lot dates back several years to the Township’s Smart Growth Plan of 2007 and its Vision Plan, adopted in 2010.

She reported that the eastern part of the lot (closest to SOPAC and the train station), which contains 113 spaces, is in need of better circulation for jitneys and commuter droff-off and pick-up. Collum said that more traffic is being directed to the lot with the loss of spaces along Sloan Street due to the completion of the new South Orange Rescue Squad building and the aggressive enforcement of no stopping and standing regulations on Sloan. In addition, Livingston and West Orange jitneys parking under the train trestle are causing safety issues by “blocking line of sight” for pedestrians along South Orange Avenue.

Besides improving circulation, South Orange would also construct a new riverfront plaza that would relate to the Rahway River Corridor Project for which the Township was awarded a $1 million grant by the NJ Department of Transportation in 2015. And lastly, the relocation of existing NJ Transit parkers into structured parking would free up much needed shopper parking for businesses and patrons attending events at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC).

At the Trustees meeting, Collum said that the town was looking at a potential mixed use development located at South Orange Avenue and Church that would include “residential on top with quality retail” on the ground floor. Collum called the potential development “a gateway project to South Orange” that was “a critical piece of property that was blighted and in disrepair” and now serves as a temporary parking lot that the Village has leased.

Development on the western portion would include a “structured parking garage.” The number of spaces in the lot is not yet determined but Collum said that the Township would guarantee, at a minimum, the relocation of all the existing NJ Transit commuter spaces in perpetuity as a part of a Property Sale Agreement.

Collum stressed the preliminary nature of the talks, saying that the town had determined a fair market value through an independent appraisal for the property but would now await a response from NJ Transit. She said that NJT has moved the proposal forward through internal departments as a part of an “excessing review.”

“We made it pretty clear that we are not looking to lose money on this proposition,” said Collum.

In a follow up conversation with Village Green, Collum praised the willingness of NJ Transit to work with the Village on what she called a win-win.

“The Office of Government and Community Relations along with the Real Estate and Economic Development Department were really great to meet with and I left the meeting feeling that they were genuinely interested in working with our Village in creating something special that would serve our mutual goals and it’s great work with an agency that ‘gets it.’”

She continued, “This proposal isn’t just about the bottom line, our actions and aspirations are consistent with the State’s economic development goals with transit-oriented development in a designated growth area, meeting and exceeding the mission of NJ Transit as public transportation corporation, and at the local level, delivering a vision for our residents grounded in smart growth principles and comprehensive planning.”

Click on images to enlarge:

Related Articles