South Orange

Collum: Negotiations with Hub Realty for Developing ‘Blockbuster Block’ Are Back On

Rendering of a potential Hub Realty development on South Orange Avenue from September 2016.

After announcing in April that a proposed development on South Orange Avenue between Vose and Scotland Road was defunct, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum reported today on Facebook that negotiations are back on between the Township and Hub Realty LLC.

Collum reported that previously “the financial agreement was not acceptable,” meaning that the developers for the potential mixed-use project were seeking a more substantial tax abatement or PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) than the town was willing to give or thought necessary to make the project financially feasible. “Sometimes you need to walk away which I have no problem doing,” wrote Collum.

However, Collum posted today that “negotiations are now back with the developer and along with seeking more favorable financial terms, we’re also discussing a ground lease to the Village for a co-retailing and an incubator space which would be operated by our local makers, artists, crafts people, etc. Many of you attended a meeting with me about a month ago, I hope to have some terms to share shortly.”

The Village President also added, “Oh and it’s worth noting that all projects have a mandatory set aside and payments for affordable housing. We’re gonna hit our numbers and hopefully exceed them not because we have to but because we should.”

The last reported numbers for the Hub Realty project, helmed by the Lustbader family which has been acquiring parcels on the block for years, were 130 residential units, 17,500 sf or retail space, 130 underground parking spaces and 75 garage spaces.

The project has been a long time in the making. In 2014, the Village of South Orange conditionally designated “Vose Avenue Apartments Urban Renewal, LLC” as the redeveloper of a number of parcels in this block.

Collum also posted updates on Village Hall, Orange Lawn Tennis Club and mid-range housing development.

Read Collum’s full Facebook post here:

So I’m working on a write-up for our Village website on all things redevelopment but thought, what the heck, why not share a sneak peek at what I consider good or great news.

First, we’re officially done with litigation and settlement terms and moving forward with Village Hall. All parties to the suit have now signed and approved all legal documents. I’ve been in touch with Landmark and we’re coordinating the closing.

Second, for anyone who was under the impression that Village Hall sucked the life out of me, I had actually spent considerably more time on Orange Lawn Tennis Club and working with the neighbors there. Three years ago I was pulled into a sticky situation of prior zoning of the site which allowed upwards 105 apartments to be built (I wish I was joking) – this dates back to the early 1990s. A deal was previously contemplated for 30 townhomes on 5 acres. I got that down to 20 on 1/3 of the property which was consistent with the surrounding zoning of 4.4 units per acre and would allow the historic tennis club to remain. It was the first successfully negotiated down-zoning in our town. The trade off with working “in good faith” with the property owners was allowing for an accessory use of a bubble on tennis courts during the winter months. Fast forward, that deal ultimately fell through but what remained was the redevelopment plan which protected the site from future overdevelopment. This brings me to today. Orange Lawn Tennis Club will remain under new ownership with no development on the property and just received approvals to operate a bubble over some courts during the winter months. The new owners were featured in the New York Times noting how OLTC is a historic club that should be cherished. My thanks goes to the neighbors for working with me, attending lots of meetings, and hopefully this outcome is acceptable.

Third, the missing middle of mid-ranged housing has been and is of great concern to me. While the rental market continues to be robust, we don’t have a good supply of ownership opportunities particularly for those looking to downsize in our community. A lot of the issues with condos relates to financing of projects but I won’t bore you with that. What I will share is that in one of our new developments the housing will likely be mid-ranged condos rather than apartments. I will provide more details shortly and also note a restaurant anchor will occupy the first floor.

Lastly, I reported about a month ago that negotiations with Hub Realty (the block inclusive of the Blockbuster site) had come to a close and the financial agreement was not acceptable. Sometimes you need to walk away which I have no problem doing. Well, negotiations are now back with the developer and along with seeking more favorable financial terms, we’re also discussing a ground lease to the Village for a co-retailing and an incubator space which would be operated by our local makers, artists, crafts people, etc. Many of you attended a meeting with me about a month ago, I hope to have some terms to share shortly.

Oh and it’s worth noting that all projects have a mandatory set aside and payments for affordable housing. We’re gonna hit our numbers and hopefully exceed them not because we have to but because we should.

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