Founders’ Park South Orange

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2 ADDING ELECTRIC AND WATER (for park events and water fountains)

3  SIGNAGE – add park name, Founder’s Park to an attractive sign near entrance

4  UPGRADED FENCING

5  PARK CLEAN-UP & PLANTING – (year 2) taking place May 20.

6 PLAY AREA  – Add benches, tables for adults between swings and street and add more swings, slides & fun play structures to entice kids

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7  WALL OF BUILDING NEXT DOOR  – Paint a mural on the wall

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8  GAZEBO AND SHUFFLEBOARD AREA – Eliminate black top and replace with grass or matching cement.  Paint or re-stain Gazebo, Good spot for 2 large permanent flower planters or some landscaping to perk it up.

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9  VIEWS

Improve views  around side perimeters of park.  Add smaller trees and other flora and block out industrial views on either side of park (skip laurel, ground shrubs, etc.).   Have a small dedicated Garden area with a unique layout and flora that might attract people like Cherry Blossoms in Branch Brook Pk.

10  PROMOTIONS & EVENTS

Summer events – BBQ,  Arts, Sculpture, Theatre, Music, Movies, Foodtrucks, Picnics, Bocce and other games…

 

THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Those interested in joining the AHNA and volunteering at its second annual park clean-up and planting day on Saturday morning, May 20. Visit www.academyheights.weebly.com or find the AHNA on Nextdoor.com.

The AHNA was established in 2015 by local residents, David Kraiker and Ken Krasner. Andrew & Catherine Kit, Linda Cappaze, Robert Lasner and others have also contributed significantly to the mission of “preserving the integrity and serenity” and raising the profile of the neighborhood. It numbers more than 200 members. Although young, the AHNA has already made its mark, working closely with the town on projects like the proposed 4th & Valley development  and 320 Valley St. as well as Founders Park.

New Trails in Watchung Reservation

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The Union Co. Dept. of Parks & Recreation hosted a meeting and presented a Trails Master Plan that has been developed for the Watchung Reservation.  This plan will create new trails and open the Watchung Reservation to mountain biking. The meeting was held on Tuesday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. at the Trailside Nature & Science Center. The map above shows proposed biking trails in light blue, hiking trails in light green and horse/hiking trails in purple.

Reps of the Parks Department and its trails planning consultant explained the plan and answered questions.  Those attending had an opportunity to offer their input on the plan. A similar meeting was held last October, primarily for mountain biking enthusiasts.

The Trails Master Plan includes the construction of 13 1/2 miles of new trails which will be restricted to mountain biking only.  The new trails will be spread throughout most areas of the park.  Portions of the Sierra Trail and other existing hiking or equestrian trails will be shared by all users, including mountain bikers.  Some sections of existing hiking trails will be closed.  Debate is still ongoing regarding possible effects on wildlife and neighboring property.

The Clarus in downtown Maplewood

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Tom and Jennifer Carlin, Maplewood residents and local chef/restaurateurs will open a restaurant and bar at the Clarus in Maplewood, the mixed-use development rising at the site of the former Post Office.  Tom & Jennifer, the husband-and-wife team behind the Gladstone Tavern in Gladstone, signed a lease for a roughly 4,000 square-foot ground floor space on Friday.  The restaurant and bar will open its doors in the summer and will occupy much of the retail space in the new development joining two other signed tenants, Starbucks and BCB Bank.
The developer, Joe Forgione is negotiating with other potential retail tenants for the remaining space. He said there has been a great deal of interest from a variety of businesses, but wanted to ensure that tenants would not compete directly with other local businesses and would “bring vitality to Maplewood Avenue.” Forgione helped secure the liquor license for the venture and it will need to be approved by the Maplewood Township Committee (which acts as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control.)

All apartment residents on the second and third floors will have access to amenities including a state-of-the-art fitness center, yoga and spin studio, package center, resident lounge, billiards, and a beautifully-designed luxe lobby with double-sided fireplace. A digital, fitness-on-demand personal trainer will also be available 24 hours a day in the virtual fitness room. The building also includes a 20-car parking garage “with an electric car charger, personal storage space for residents, secured bike storage, and elevator service.”

 

Q&A with Matt Smollon, SOMA film festival mastermind #somafilmfestival #mattsmollonmovies

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From Thursday, March 9 until Sunday, March 12th the SOMA film festival will hold court at SOPAC and the Maplewood Theater.  I’m looking forward to attending the second year’s events which look to build upon last year’s successful maiden voyage. It’s the brainchild of South Orange resident, Matt Smollon.
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Below is some Q&A with Matt and find a link to the full website farther below.
1  what gave you the idea to do the SOMA filmfest?
It started with a conversation with Laura Bessey who used to work at SOPAC – Our daughters are friends. I asked her, “why doesn’t SOMA have a film fest?”  She said put something together and pitch to SOPAC.  I comprised a deck, consulted some friends who worked/ran film festivals, and presented. They gave the go ahead and we were off to the races.
2  were you always a writer and producer?
No. I worked in marketing, advertising, and PR for many years at companies like the NFL and Wiley Publishing.
3  name your three favorite films  
The Godfather 1 and 2, Tender Mercies, and Scarecrow.
4  who’s the biggest actor or director you’ve met and what were they like in person?
Harrison Ford and he was a very down to earth guy.
5 what’s the last film that made you tear up?
‘Fire at Sea,’ a documentary in this years festival.
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6  who’s your favorite band/singer?
The Who
7  if you could have three people at a dinner party who would they be?
My dad, mom, and sister who have all passed.
8  what’s your favorite place in the world?
Maine.
9  whats the biggest challenge building the filmfest?
Managing all the elements, venue, filmmakers, sponsors, and everything in between.
10  who’s your favorite sports team?  and if it isn’t a new york team or a team from the area you grew up in, explain why you are not a carpetbagger 🙂  I was born in Brooklyn, and was RAISED a huge Mets fan.  Been in SO for 10 years, no carpetbagging here.

link to SOMA film festival website

West Village Clothing Co., Maplewood

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About a month ago, after a coffee and nibble at Cedar Ridge Cafe, my wife & I wandered over to West Village Clothing Company at nearby 410 Ridgewood Av. in Maplewood.  She purchased some cool boots and I said hello to Stephen Hayden who was presiding there.  I knew him from our Academy Heights neighborhood. Here’s a brief conversation with his wife, the owner, Sarah Hayden about the shop and…
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Also, they’re having a crazy  Bag Sale event this Saturday!

1  when did West Village Clothing Co open?  August of 2016
2  did you run a clothes shop before that?  I have a background in urban planning. When my girls were born, I stayed home. When they started preschool, I worked part time at a local kids consignment store. I truly enjoyed working there & thought it would be great to do on my own. I decided to jump in & bought this business. I fell in love with the homey Ridgewood Row strip of stores. I love talking to the local cast of characters, my regulars and meeting new customers too! An added plus is that I can walk to work from home & my littlest kid is right around the corner at South Mountain Elementary. Win-win! 
3  if you could choose any person in the world to walk into your shop and buy something who would it be & what would they buy? Ina Garten (squee!). I could see her buying a wrap or a pashmina.
4  would you ask them for a quick selfie or photo?  Selfie of course
5  if you didn’t run a clothes shop what would you do?  I’d own a candy store (a la Dylan’s Candy Bar) where I would also resurrect my calligraphy business.
6  if you could own one item of clothing that you don’t currently own, what would it be?Hmmm…. I’m happy with what I have!
7  who’s your favorite band/singer?  shoes
The Smiths/Morrissey
8  if you could choose any 3 people in the world for a dinner party, who would they be?  Morrissey, Paul Rudd and Ina Garten. I think that would be interesting! My husband, Steve, would be there as well 🙂
9  what’s your favorite place in the whole world?
Quebec City during the Winter Carnival! 
 

Yet two more Valley St. area projects

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There are two more sites near Valley St. in South Orange that are making their way thru the ‘process.’
NAPA PROJECT (top image) – The first project up to bat at the design meeting in January was the site where NAPA Autoparts and the dilapidated building next door currently sit. The developer wanted to construct 8 units. The Design Board commented on the stucco features of the building façade and asked them to make it a darker color.
The parking lot on the south side of the building will remain.  Thankfully the developer is limiting the project to 3 storeys and they have not tried to get tax abatements either.  The Planning Board at SOPAC will take up the matter and get deeper into the project.
70 SECOND STREET PROJECT (bottom image) – Next project was from developer Henry Szwed of Eclipse Real Estate Partners.  His group were willing to listen to the Design Board and the neighborhood who were tough on the design. They asked him to reorient the building to FACE the street instead of facing inward and up the hill.   The Design Board had some images on their computers and offered those as ideas and along with the residents tried to steer the developer toward making the building fit in with the homes on that street which are small & simple Victorian style homes and not as ‘South Philly’ as above.
The developer is hoping to SELL (not rent) five apartments of 3 bedrooms each.   As the building seeks a variance to be so close to the street, the DB suggested downsizing the building to 4 apartments if it would still be economically feasible.   In the parking lot after the meeting, speaking with neighbors,  the developer picked up on the idea of creating age-friendly apartments and might incorporate that as a way to shrink the streetside unit to be farther from the street.   The DB strongly urged him to rework his design to fit into the streetscape and then return.

Fourth & Valley

 

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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 – ken@kenkrasnerhomes.com

 

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