I was encouraged at the most recent public SOPAC meeting which discussed plans for the proposed 106-unit development on the Southwest corner of 4th & Valley in South Orange. After many prior meetings over two years in which Village officials and neighbors worked with Meridia, the redeveloper, it appears that area residents are finally feeling that the project will improve the area and deal with potential issues regarding parking and traffic.
Architect James Haley of Haley Donovan made many changes requested by Academy Heights residents, breaking up the facades, setbacks and heights of the building to make it look more varied and organic to the neighborhood. The newest plan also shows a generous amount of public space to be enjoyed by neighbors – something residents said was missing at the Third & Valley development. Now featured are extra wide (20′) sidewalks – generating more public space and potentially allowing for the widening of Valley Street should traffic studies call for a turning lane or other improvement.
Village President, Sheena Collum said the Village hoped to re-introduce the plan and agreements in January at a Board of Trustees meeting. The redevelopment plan would then be referred to the Planning Board for approval, then back to the Board of Trustees for a hearing and a vote.
“Third & Valley did not have the robust public process this has had,” said Collum. “Credit the neighborhood for mobilizing.” Neighborhood residents, David Kraiker, Andrew Kit, Linda Cappaze, Catherine Fisher and myself (and others) got together many times in preparation for our meetings with the town on this project. Speaking at the SOPAC meeting, Andrew Kit said, “This is the ideal of what a public process should be like.” We also were vocal about the 320 Valley project that has broken ground nearby.
As the town’s ‘vision plan’ has named the Valley St. corridor as one of the prime areas it’s looking to redevelop (in addition to South Orange Av & Irvington Av), it is very likely there will be interest in other sites nearby in the near future. If you’d like to get involved with contributing to shaping the future of the Valley St. corridor projects, please reach out to me – firstname.lastname@example.org