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For Sale in South Orange: Centrally Located, Historical Building Known as Village Hall

Amy Kiste Nyberg

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 • 8:42am

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Village Hall will go back on the market after village trustees agreed at their meeting Monday night to see if there is any interest from buyers in the historical building.

They instructed village officials to prepare a Request for Expression of Interest, a document that invites potential buyers to submit a proposal, and they agreed to authorize spending $5,000 initially for marketing and advertising while deciding to cap such expenses at $10,000 total.

According to Village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr., asbestos abatement will be completed on or before July 2. In terms of the construction schedule, the village has a “window” between July and November to consider alternatives to renovation. “It’s a good window, where the building is assessable; people can come take a look,” he said.

He asked for direction from the board concerning possible conditions for sale. In the village’s previous attempt to sell the building, one option would have been for the village to retain some interest in the building, perhaps to use a portion as office space.

“We had all sorts of problems with how that was structured,” village counsel Steve Rother said. He noted that there is liability with a public-private partnership, including the risk that the building ownership could revert back to the village. He recommended the village seek to sell the building outright: “You give us a check, we give you a deed.”

Trustees agreed that an outright sale is in the village’s best interests. “This is about trying to get ourselves out from under the burden,” Trustee Walter Clarke said.

The board also agreed that the parking lot should be included, with potential buyers having the option of acquiring the lot in addition to the building. Rother noted that some landlocked property on the block is accessed through the parking lot, and those easements would have to be a condition of the sale.

In addition, Village Hall is a designated state historic site. Any sale will have a restricted deed requiring the owner to preserve the exterior of the building.

In a previous RFEI, the village received only one proposal, which it rejected in 2011. Lewis said now that the real estate market has changed and the asbestos abatement is completed, the property may be more attractive.

If the village does receive proposals this time around, Lewis said, it will have to weigh the cost of renovation, estimated at $6.5 million, against the costs of finding alternate space for village offices. Lewis said the village could continue to lease space, as it does now, or it could look for a site to build a municipal office building.

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