Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

Redevelopment Brings Business and Customers to South Orange

Smart Growth Awards Category: Main Street Redevelopment
Winner: Sterling Properties, Eden Gourmet and Township of South Orange Village


The Avenue Development and The Marketplace at Eden had its earliest origins in a downtown plan commissioned by South Orange in 1994.

One of that plan’s principal recommendations was increasing mixed-use development in the central business district to encourage pedestrian activity and use of existing transportation and infrastructure, while creating a steady customer base for the variety of retail, dining and cultural arts opportunities the township would attract.

To accomplish this goal, South Orange had created a redevelopment zone, which encouraged use of flexible zoning and public-private partnerships, including the provision of tax incentives to prospective developers in the form of Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOTS).

In 2001, South Orange acquired a property where a regional supermarket operator, citing size limitations, had closed two years earlier. The property, which is adjacent to NJ TRANSIT’s South Orange station and rail line, was better suited to renovation than total demolition. Municipal officials focused on re-use of the building, by then publicly owned, for a new grocery store. In addition, South Orange acquired an adjacent property around the corner, and a number of easements to provide a supportive mix of residential and retail development. When landfill was discovered on the site, the township conducted the necessary remediation.

South Orange ultimately partnered with Sterling Properties, a prominent real estate developer, which in turn partnered with Eden Gourmet, with successful market locations in New York City and Hoboken. Sterling entered into a PILOT agreement with the township, and sold the market site to Eden Marketplace. Eden completed a dramatic building renovation and, in May 2008, opened The Marketplace at Eden to critical acclaim and a growing, enthusiastic clientele. Eden opened its upstairs café in early 2009, and plans to expand it into a full-service restaurant and bar with outdoor dining.

The popular market and café now stand at the heart of the central business district, and soon will be complemented by 79 condominiums, now under construction, which Sterling will market to young singles and families, as well as to empty-nesters eager to re-settle in South Orange’s revitalized, convenient downtown. The project’s proximity to NJ TRANSIT’s Midtown Direct rail service and 30-minute trip to Manhattan is also a major attraction, as are the growing number of shopping, dining, entertainment and recreation venues within easy walking distance.

In its design, The Avenue Development and The Marketplace at Eden have been careful to blend with the surrounding historical architecture, enhancing South Orange as a distinctive, attractive community with a sense of history and place. The project, particularly the residential component, fits with South Orange’s early designation as a Transit Village, providing residences within walking distance of public transportation options, including rail and bus lines.

A popular food market in a mixed-use, downtown setting is attractive not only to residents of the adjacent and other nearby residential units but also to commuters, who can purchase food and meals en route to/from the train station. It also serves a magnet for nearby Seton Hall University students and staff and surrounding communities’ residents, further enhancing the vitality of South Orange’s central business district. Other nearby retail establishments also benefit from the pedestrian traffic generated by the market, the residential units and the train station, which in turn spur economic activity throughout the central business district.

The Avenue Development and The Marketplace at Eden are part of a well-planned, well-managed, smart-growth strategy that adds new residences, new businesses and new jobs, all in close proximity to public transportation, while preserving the character and sense of community integral to South Orange.

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