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First Floor Retail Spaces Can Now House Offices in South Orange

South Orange Board of Trustees passes ordinance to allow doctors' offices and other professional services in first floor spaces.

Doctors and other professionals will now be able to utilize first floor spaces, previously only zoned for retail, after the South Orange Board of Trustees voted to adopt a new Central Business District Redevelopment Plan.

After much discussion and input from the public, both for and against, the Board of Trustees voted 4-1 in favor of he plan, which allows offices on the first floor in several locations. These offices were previously only allowed on the second floor.

The rezoning includes three lots on Vose Avenue,Taylor Place and Church Street, said Village Administrator Barry Lewis.

Local doctors and representatives of Overlook Medical Center and Atlantic Health Systems including the Director of Business Development John Rosellini all spoke in support of the ordinance.

Former Village President Douglas Newman, who served from 2007 to 2011, spoke against the ordinance during public comment.

“This is about converting retail storefronts into commercial office spaces,” he said. “It would be a terrible step backwards in the redevelopment of South Orange Village's Central Business District to let those spaces become commercial spaces.”

Trustees Walter Clarke, Deborah Davis Ford, Mark Rosner, and Steve Schnall all voted in favor while Trustee Sheena Collum voted against. Trustee Howard Levison was absent from the meeting.

“I think this is going to be a great addition to the town but I think this is more of an objective view about zoning,” said Collum. “For me its not about the medical office, it is the rezoning and allowing the professional services to come down to the first floor.”

Collum continued, saying that there are already very limited retail spaces and that the Board should “stand firm and support retailers.”

The other Trustees argued that offices on the first floor will increase foot traffic to the existing retailers.

“I do see a benefit, in my opinion, to change this ordinance to allow prof org and biz to occupy those spaces,” said Davis Ford. “A community such as ours that is vibrant and brings so many thing to the table, to leave out opportunities for professional services just doesn’t make sense.”

“This is a fantastic thing to do,” agreed Village President Alex Torpey. “One of the things that plagues government is an inability to understand that things are changing and that just the way things have always been done is not always the best reason to continue doing something that way.”

Brandon McKoy January 29, 2014 at 06:20 PM
Vose Avenue, Taylor Place, and Church Street are corridors which do not generally create significant foot traffic. Allowing first floor spaces in these areas to be occupied by commercial entities that don't rely on foot traffic as much as retailers do is simply sound planning. Well done, Board!
Robert Barnes January 29, 2014 at 09:16 PM
There is plenty of vacant retail space and undeveloped properties that could be converted into retail space in and around South Orange Avenue. This is an overdue change. Anything to bring more people into downtown the better.

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