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Major Redevelopment And NYC Commutability Are Changing The Image Of East Orange

Once seen as New Jersey’s ugly stepchild, East Orange finally gets its “Brooklyn” moment.

By Jeff Vasishta November 17, 2016
Photo courtesy of John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger via nj.com

“Folks, never go to East Orange, New Jersey,” recent Nobel Prize winner, Bob Dylan told a crowd at New York’s Gaslight Cafe in 1961. “It’s a horrible town.” Over half a century later Dylan may want to reconsider his opinion. Like its neighbor, Newark, East Orange is now enjoying major investment. Turns out, its long maligned reputation, as espoused by Dylan when he was paid in chess pieces for a gig, could finally change.

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According to a press release from the mayor Lester Taylor, private capital investment in East Orange has tripled over the last several years to over $350 million. It supported more than 2,400 units and 200,000 square feet of construction in every ward of the city. One of the lynchpins in East Orange’s redevelopment was Blackstone 360. They started transforming two dilapidated buildings in 2006 close to NJ Transit’s Brick St Station, turning them into luxury apartment complexes with waitlists. For a city like East Orange, a poor stepchild in Essex County for decades, it was like running into a fairy Godmother with a stage coach, a sequined dress and a ticket to a royal ball.

The buildings on South Harrison Street have slick lobbies and interiors that Manhattan developers would be proud to call their own. They have changed the perception of what East Orange could be.

“Most people didn’t think it would work,” developer Airaj Hasan told www.nj.com in 2012. “To me, transit is the key.”

Blackstone 360’s initial foray on South Harrison Street sparked further development nearby turning it into one of the most sought after spots in the town.

Recently, three high-rise multi-family towers totaling 249 units located along S. Harrison Street were sold for $27.15 million to a joint venture of TreeTop Development and Phoenix Realty Group, as revealed in GlobeSt.

The East Orange Towers portfolio includes 106, 111 and 120 South Harrison St., all located in the historic Main Street/South Harrison Street residential neighborhood. In total, there are 119 units at 106 South Harrison, 86 units at 111 South Harrison and 44 units at 120 South Harrison Street. The overall unit mix includes three studios, 142 one-bedroom, 83 two-bedroom and 21 three-bedroom layouts. All have been renovated to include modern layouts with laundry facilities and tenant-only fitness rooms.

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“Private-investment initiatives and gentrification of the tenant base are spurring further revitalization in what is expected to become another of North Jersey’s high-barrier-to-entry multi-family investment markets,” says broker Joseph Brecher of Gebroe-Hammer Associates, who handled the sale.

Mayor Lester Taylor is proud of the ongoing investment in East Orange. ”We’ve worked very hard to brand our city,” Taylor said. “Our vision is setting the standard for urban excellence and making East Orange a destination city.”

Crime and cleanliness often go hand in hand in turning around a troubled area. East Orange’s stats bear the hallmarks of a city in an upward transition.

“We have experienced a crime rate that is as low, if not lower, than it has been since 1968 in East Orange,” Taylor said. “Coincidentally, that was when East Orange was the cleanest city in the country.”

The other blight of poor cities are abandoned buildings. Ridding them from the landscape has been an East Orange priority.

“We’re working very hard to clean the city, to identify and remove blight throughout the community,” Taylor told NJ Advance Media, pointing to the city’s Vacant and Abandoned Properties Division, which has “helped to aggressively clean up properties, hold owners accountable and get vacant homes back on the tax rolls.”

Maybe Dylan would consider playing in East Orange again. He might actually get paid in cash this time.

 

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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