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Thread: East Orange, NJ

  1. #1

    Default East Orange, NJ


    Avenue That Used to Be Awaits a Rebirth

    Richard Perry/The New York Times
    FORMIDABLE FACADES Architecture along Central Avenue in East Orange recalls its heyday.

    Published: November 4, 2007
    East Orange

    THE granite blocks are set like steppingstones in the sidewalk along Central Avenue, engraved with the names of the city’s famous former residents, marching right up to the marquee of the grand old Deco movie palace with the Spanish-tile roof and the ornate pressed-copper frieze.
    “I was there for Dionne Warwick, and John Amos, too,” said Mitchell Williams, standing at the oval sales counter in his store on the next block, Debonaire Men’s Wear, recalling the ceremonies enshrining the names on the city’s new Walk of Fame, a roster that also includes Queen Latifah, Wyclef Jean and Eddie Rabbitt. “I’ve seen the highs and the lows here on Central Avenue.”
    For much of the last few decades, conversations about Central Avenue — the main business corridor in this Essex County city of 70,000, once lined with so many fine stores it was known as the Fifth Avenue of the suburbs — have tended to include the phrase “used to.” Kress and B. Altman used to be across the street from Debonaire. Best & Company and Sears used to be neighbors, too. Well-heeled matrons used to stroll from the furrier to the jeweler to the milliner, and the Hollywood Theater used to be packed with their children on matinee Saturdays.
    “Everything in here is original,” Mr. Williams said, sweeping his arm to take in the polished walnut display cases, dentil molding and ceiling beams in one of the few places along the avenue that still looks the way it once did. “We’re a landmark here.”
    But what about the rest of the avenue, where the dollar stores and hair salons and take-out restaurants that now occupy the old limestone facades look shrunken inside them, as if they were wearing the kind of ill-fitting suits the dapper Mr. Williams would never let out his door?
    “If we could just get over the hump of commercial people believing that they’re pioneers coming to an urban area,” said Mayor Robert L. Bowser, whose family has been settled in the city since the 1880s, and whose own conversations often include another phrase: “56 percent,” the drop in the city’s crime rate over the last three years. “It makes them hesitate.”
    Like many other cities with diminished retail districts, East Orange has, over the last several years, made some attempts at resuscitation, efforts shaped by an unusual degree of both poignancy and difficulty, given the wide gap between what Central Avenue was and what it had become. The most visible initial step was the restoration of the Hollywood Theater, which once played host to Spencer Tracy for the 1940 red-carpet world premiere of “Edison the Man,” but which had sat shuttered and vacant for almost 20 years.
    The old stage and dressing rooms, the 1,600 sagging seats, the crumbling plaster, the leaky roof — all of it went, and the interior was portioned into five new theaters by a New York developer with family roots in the North Jersey theater business, Edmondo Schwartz. “They even popped their own popcorn,” said Mr. Bowser, who was a regular as a boy, and became a regular again after the Hollywood reopened as a first-run movie theater in December 2005. A few months later, the city dedicated its Walk of Fame outside.
    But for the last six weeks, the doors have been locked and the only word on the marquee is one that surprised almost everyone when it went up: “Closed.” Mr. Schwartz did not return calls for comment, but city officials say that attendance at the theater was lower than expected.
    “We’re going to get the Hollywood open again,” said Mr. Bowser, who has met with the owner to discuss a potential property tax abatement and other ways the city might help. Mr. Williams, who is president of the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, said he has also spoken with Mr. Schwartz, whom he described as “cautiously optimistic” about the Hollywood’s future.
    When Mr. Williams opened Debonaire in 1980, Central Avenue was in the midst of an earlier experiment in urban revitalization. To make the street more like the malls that were siphoning away business, the city built a curved acrylic-glass canopy over the sidewalks. But when the anchor stores later left, so too did many of the smaller ones, and the sidewalks became dreary tunnels. “Even on a sunshiny day it was dark,” Mr. Bowser said.
    The canopy was finally removed this year, and on a recent sunny morning, the buildings it once concealed seemed to blink in the sharp-edged light, like hibernating creatures just emerging from slumber. The racks in Mr. Williams’s store were thick with fine Italian suits. The glass display cases were stacked with hats that ranged from $250 pinch-front beaver Stetsons to the $45 derbies that adorn so many heads on prom nights.
    “We do a big job for the churches,” said Mr. Williams, 60, who is an officer at a local Baptist church. “You go to any church around here on a Sunday morning and you’ll see a Debonaire man — that’s what we call them — and they’ll be proud of it.”
    With the canopy gone, the city now plans to spruce up the streetscape — sidewalks, plantings, lights, restored facades. And the granite blocks in the sidewalk for this year’s class in the Walk of Fame need a little attention, too, some kind of coating to make them less slippery. The footing is sometimes unsure when you’re trying to move ahead along the avenue.

  2. #2 Front_Porch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Manhattan 90210


    The first half of my book is set in Jersey, sort of split between Newark and East Orange. It's definitely on an upswing, but there's some distance to travel.

    ali r.
    {downtown broker}
    the book:

  3. #3

    Default Razing an eyesore in East Orange

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    Star-Ledger Staff

    The elongated arm of the John Deere 550 LC -- a cross between a "Star Wars'" Imperial Walker and a dinosaur, with a beak like an eagle's -- swooped down and chomped on the steel beams and cinder blocks at the demolition site off Route 280 in East Orange.

    John Ramerez, carefully using the hydraulic controls on this huge piece of equipment, is part of the East Hanover-based Mazzocchi Wrecking Inc. crew ripping down the two long-closed office towers at 20 and 30 Evergreen Place.

    The massive demolition project reached the half-way completion point yesterday, as workers, seek ing to clear the 2.14-acre site, finished knocking down the first of the two towers, the five-story 20 Evergreen Place building.
    The removal of those adjacent buildings -- once bustling with employees from the American International Group (AIG) insurance conglomerate's data processing di vision, Western Electric, the Insurance Company of North America, New Jersey Bell, Home Insurance, General Motors, E.I. duPont DeNe mours and Brockway Glass -- is in preparation for a major East Orange redevelopment effort.

    Evergreen Halsted Associates LLC, a private investment consortium -- is pumping $129.4 million into building a 140-room hotel/ conference center, a 91-unit residential condominium high-rise, a 120,000-square-foot office tower, two 75,000-square-foot levels of re tail stores and commuter parking deck for about 1,000 vehicles.

    "We are absolutely ecstatic," city Administrator Reginald Lewis said. "A major eyesore in the community is finally coming down to make way for East Orange's future.

    "The three-star hotel envisioned for this area will mark the return of services and other amenities once prominent in this city," Lewis said.

    The parcel, bordered by Freeway Drive East and Route 280 on the north, Evergreen Place on the west and Halsted Street on the east, is directly across the Route 280 overpass that leads to NJ Transit's Brick Church rail station. The latter is where Midtown Direct train service to Manhattan is offered.

    The investors in that redevelopment effort are hoping to lure a Hilton Hotel, Old Navy, Commerce Bank, major supermarket chain and an upscale coffee shop as the prime tenants.

    "I believe this will be the catalyst to redevelop the area around the Brick Church train station," Mayor Robert Bowser said. "It's an upscale project that will provide a lot of job opportunities, needed parking for Midtown Direct, and office space that will be upscale and more functional for today's needs."

    In the long run, the redevelopment is trying to counter the negative effects of the state's use, in the mid to late 1960s, of eminent do main to wipe out up to 350 East Orange residential, business and commercial properties and neighborhoods, including that area and McKinley Avenue, a major east-to- west thoroughfare.

    Mark Gordon, a spokesman for the Evergreen Halsted Associates, said the investors are poised to transform that Evergreen Place locale.

    "When both buildings are totally down, access to the site will lead towards the next phases of the project," Gordon said. "We are predicting that phase one, which will include the retail and parking elements, will open within three years from now.

    "And the next phases of the hotel, residential and office (components), will commence as soon as phase one is finished," Gordon said.
    The city of East Orange is paying Mazzocchi $1.7 million to get rid of what used to be known as the Plaza Station I and the Plaza Station II.
    First opened in May 1970, they have been boarded up and filled with squatters for years.

    Ramerez used that excavator's clamping arm -- which can stretch a full 47 feet and 5 inches -- to chomp down on steel beams, metal pilings and the edge of floors, to violently yank away, and to rip up the building piece by piece.

    Small, mid-size and large chunks of debris that also included light fixtures, cinder blocks, beige bricks, concrete, air conditioning and heating ducts, and corrugated metal ceiling panels -- came loudly crashing down to the ground.
    The next two weeks will be spent carting away all those piles of twisted metal and debris, according to Norman Russo, Mazzocchi's on-site construction manager there.

    Taking down 30 Evergreen Place is more of a daunting task because demolition crews do not want to damage the two-story structure adjacent to it: the New Jersey Firemen's Association building, 50 Evergreen Place, a two-story office building at Halsted Place.

  4. #4
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Jersey City


    FINALLY!!! I am so glad that these buildings are torn town. They have been a blighted eye sore for E. Orange and that stretch of 280 as a whole. Way to go East Orange glad to see the city moving forward without these fugly empty boxes.

  5. #5


    I live a few blocks from evergreen place, those buildings are definitely an eyesore, glad they are finally doing something with it

  6. #6

    Default $130M Mixed-Use Set for Construction

    By Eric Peterson

    Evergreen Crossing

    EAST ORANGE, NJ-Two long-vacant office buildings are currently being demolished on 2.1 acres near the NJ Transit Brick Church Station, and the plan is to replace them with a transit-oriented mixed-use complex. As reported by, the $130-million project this past fall.

    Actual construction for Evergreen Crossing is slated to begin shortly by developer Evergreen-Halstead Associates. That group is a partnership of BTR Capital and the New York City-based Saddle River Associates.

    “Evergreen will help revitalize East Orange by creating a live-work destination in a central site,” says Josh Porter, managing director in BTR’s Iselin, NJ office.

    The site, formerly owned by the city but acquired in 2007 by Evergreen-Halstead for a reported $1.4 million, is bordered by I-280, Evergreen Place, Halstead Street and Freeway Drive East. The development plan calls for 300,000 sf of commercial space, 200,000 of that being retail and the rest offices; 90 residential condos; a 140-room hotel and a 1,500-car parking structure.

    And CB Richard Ellis has been hired to find tenants for the retail portion of the project. First VP Daniel Geller and SVP Richard Schulz are heading the exclusive assignment.
    “Evergreen is designed to be the epicenter of the city’s revitalization,” Geller says. “There are more than one million consumers within a 10-minute drive, and as a whole East Orange is underserved with quality retail space.” Asking rent on CBRE’s website for the retail space is currently listed as “negotiable.”

  7. #7


    Looks great. EO Reprezent!

  8. #8


    EO in da house! haha, we commin up!

  9. #9


    East Orange has such potential - I'm glad they are finally seeing it!

  10. #10


    How can I get this pic for my facebook page? central Ave EO

  11. #11
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    On the Rails in North NJ


    Hows East Orange , doing? Its been 2 years since ive traveled through it , is it still on a small upswing?

  12. #12


    I'd say East Orange is on a small upswing.

    Lots of entrepreunial West Indians investing in real estate and opening new businesses.

    Some parts of East Orange are rather nice. It really depends.

  13. #13


    It's a mixed bag to be honest. For instance new "suburban housing" was built in place of Upsula College on Prospect Street over the years. But it's the same ol' south of 280 and east of the Parkway. Harrison St though has seen a couple of new apartments renovated or in the process of being built.

  14. #14
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    On the Rails in North NJ


    Are they going to demolish the projects in EO? And hows the Crime rate , i heard EO got a ring of security...

  15. #15
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    On the Rails in North NJ


    Some pictures i took on the train today...

    DSC04782 by Nexis4Jersey09, on Flickr

    DSC04781 by Nexis4Jersey09, on Flickr

    DSC04783 by Nexis4Jersey09, on Flickr

    DSC04895 by Nexis4Jersey09, on Flickr

    DSC04896 by Nexis4Jersey09, on Flickr

    DSC04897 by Nexis4Jersey09, on Flickr

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