Grant Gives New Life to Connett Building
One of the historical and architectural gems of South Orange is ready for a facelift
For almost 75 years, the Connett Building directly served the needs of the community as the South Orange Public Library. More recently the building has been used for various meetings, events and as home to EIES, a nonprofit organization. Plans are now underway to integrate its regular use back into a “Library Campus” concept to better serve the people of South Orange.
In December of 2009, the Connett Library Building was awarded a $50,000 grant by the Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund, which would pay for a physical assessment, maintenance and an ultimate vision plan. A committee selected Atkin Olshin Shade to help with the evaluation. The firm was founded in Philadelphia in 1979, and has worked with a wide range of clients throughout the country on a variety of projects that have won national, state, local design and preservation awards. Over the years, the practice has evolved to include a full range of public, private and institutional building projects.
"Atkin Olshin Shae has extensive experience in preserving historic buildings and libraries, and working with communities,” says Library Director Melissa Kopecky.
As far as the ultimate vision for the building, it will remain part of the South Orange Public Library.
“Libraries are very flexible and committed to free access of information. In times of economic crisis, libraries prove to be important tools for aiding job seekers. Municipal Public Libraries do what their communities need them to do. The only way to create the ultimate vision is to look at different community spaces and determine what we are missing. That will be the exciting part," adds Kopecky.
According to the Library Board, there is a need for additional community space. This vision for the Connett Building would include a place for people to gather, access technology and to provide a neutral meeting space. Their mission is to serve the needs of all, including young families and senior citizens, and to provide working space and support for community organizations.
EIES of New Jersey, a non-proft organization dedicated to helping those unable to read because of a visual disability by converting newspapers, magazines and other text into audio files that are then distributed via audiotapes, radio, cable TV, telephone and the internet have been utilizing the building for the last twenty years. They will be part of all the conversations and plans moving forward.
Kopecky went on to state “Once the assessment is done, we can develop a maintenance plan to prevent the building from deteriorating any further. Then, we can design our vision plan which will require a capital grant.”
The planning process is set to kick off in September, after the physical assessment is completed over the summer.