The Brick Church Station was built when the rail line was elevated in between 1921 and 1923. The station never included a freight yard, as some other stations in the area did, so it was exclusively a passenger station with no industrial buildings on the surrounding block. Daily ridership at the station is second highest in the Corridor, with over 1600 passengers a day.
The area surrounding the Brick Church Station has many parcels that could be redesigned to allow the area to take full advantage of the station’s location and to improve access to the station from surrounding areas. The biggest opportunity is Brick Church Plaza, with the large Shop Rite supermarket, a handful of smaller retail stores, and its large parking lot. Other opportunities include large site on the south side of Harrison Street containing Forman Mills and its large parking lot, the large vacant parcels south of Route 280 along Freeway Drive East in the Evergreen District Redevelopment Area, and along Main Street near the station. There are two recently built residential developments on the north side of Main Street, Dr. King Plaza (96 units) and Brick Church Commons (104 units). Issues in the area include:
- The Shop Rite and the surrounding smaller retail stores block the station entrance from the north.
- The Shop Rite and the Forman Mills stores along with their large parking lots are inefficient uses of land so close to this train station.
- Route 280 and the elevated NJ TRANSIT tracks create physical, visual and psychological barriers to the areas to the south of the station and to the entrance on the South end of the station. This area includes a large residential community with residents that use the station. Also there are significant redevelopment opportunities on vacant and/or underutilized parcels whose redevelopment potential could increase with improved pedestrian aces to Broad Street Station.
- Pedestrian access from all the areas surrounding the station, but especially from the south where Route 280 and Freeway Drive creates a physical barrier.
Brick Church Plaza is one of the most important redevelopment opportunities within the corridor for its potential to serve as a catalyst for redevelopment in downtown East Orange. At 8.5 acres, the site is large enough to incorporate an expanded and modernized Shop Rite, smaller ground level retail, and multi-family residential development, as well as expanded parking to support new development and commuters. The site can also accommodate an extension of Prospect Street, to establish a meaningful pedestrian and visual connection between the Brick Church Station, Main Street and other areas to the north.
A mixed-use transit oriented development on this site would have the benefits of increasing access to the station and allowing the Shoprite to benefit from the pedestrian traffic on Main Street, and connect Main Street to the train station and the supermarket. The City of East Orange is exploring the feasibility of redevelopment at this site.
Additional potential lies in the Forman Mills site and the vacant sites along Freeway Drive East, in the area covered by the Evergreen Square District Redevelopment Plan.
WHAT IT COULD BE
Brick Church Station is currently hidden from Main Street behind the Shoprite and a sea of parking
Examples like Draegers in San Mateo, California (above) and the recently opened Shoprite in Bayonne (below left) have shown that grocery stores can be built in a way that complements sidewalk foot traffic. These stores also show how grocery stores can anchor walkable downtown shopping districts. The recent opening of the supermarket in the Health and Wellness Plaza in New Brunswick (below right) also shows how grocery stores can be successfully incorporated into mixed use projects.