SOUTH ORANGE — If you live in South Orange and own a second car, Village President Alex Torpey wants you to give it up.
Or at least consider his request.
Widely known as a transit-friendly town geared toward Manhattan-bound commuters, South Orange is looking for even more ways to grow downtown development while maintaining a small-town quality of life by keeping a lid on issues like road congestion.
In October, the 16,000-resident village added two Zipcars, stationed at First and Valley streets, by the South Orange Train Station, Torpey said.
Then last week, officials touted the latest facelift to the downtown area as they broke ground on a $64.4 million commercial and residential project at Third and Valley streets.
$$southorange.JPGSouth Orange village trustees and officials from the developer, Jonathan Rose Companies, ceremonially break ground on the $64.4 million project on March 21.Eunice Lee/The Star-Ledger
Currently a 2.7-acre commuter parking lot, the site will undergo a transformation, under the direction of New York developer Jonathan Rose, to become a five-story parking deck surrounded by 215 apartments and 3,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and office space.
The project will feature environmentally friendly elements like provisions for future solar panels on top of the parking deck, Rose said.
South Orange, which was designated as a Transit Village by the state Transportation Department in 1999, sold the site to the developer last year for about $7 million, officials said.
Village Administrator Berry Lewis, who called the project South Orange’s first major public-private partnership, said the development holds the “promise of new life and new vitality (for) the village.”
Torpey hopes future residents of the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments will “actually give up that second car” due to amenities such as the Zipcars, train station and downtown shops and restaurants a few blocks away on South Orange Avenue.
“That’s the kind of lifestyle that we’re trying to encourage people toward,” Torpey said.
“It’s a fantastic walkable community,” Rose said during Friday’s groundbreaking. “We’re a 45-second walk from the train station.”
The mixed-use site will include amenities like a fitness center, courtyard, swimming pool and clubroom. The residential component will include 22 units of affordable housing, Torpey said.
The 513-space parking deck represents a net gain of 70 spots, officials said. The two retail tenants have not yet been confirmed, according to the developer.
Construction on the mixed-use site is slated to finish in Fall 2015.
The project emerged from the village's Vision Plan drafted in 2008-09 which sought to overhaul the lot for more productive use.
The project isn’t the only development underway in South Orange. A $22 million mixed-use development at the former Beifus Motors dealership site will open next fall with 57 apartments, 97 parking spaces and 9,000 square feet of retail space, Torpey said.
Meanwhile, the latest project also means the village’s volunteer rescue squad will be building a new home next to the firehouse on Sloan Street.
The developer contributed a $1.1 million grant to the South Orange Rescue Squad in order to demolish its headquarters on Third Street to make way for the mixed-use site, Capt. Dan Cohen said.
Now temporarily housed in an apartment a block away, the rescue squad is switching architects to draw up final details for a new 4,500-square-feet facility with garages for all three ambulances and roomier accommodations. The volunteer group, which formed in 1952, became a “live-in” rescue squad 10 years ago despite cramped conditions.
The 40-member squad will fund raise to cover the rest of the construction costs, Cohen said.
This article was originally published on