East Orange/Civic Plaza Station
The East Orange Station is a brick building built when the tracks in East Orange were elevated between 1921 and 1923. While the station building is a very attractive historic structure it is not open to the public, and there are no plans for re-using it in the near future. The platforms were rebuilt in 2004. Ridership at the station is low, about 335 passengers per day, due to the relatively infrequent service.
The area surrounding the East Orange Station, often called Civic Plaza because it is immediately outside City Hall and contains many of the Corridor’s most attractive and potentially important civic assets, including:
- A collection of civic and institutional buildings, including the East Orange Municipal Building, the Municipal Court, the Public Library and Grace Church. Together they represent one of the Corridor’s top employment destinations as well as one of the highest quality collections of buildings.
- The Cicely Tyson School, one of the major public investments made in this part of the Corridor and which features a state of the art auditorium.
- A concentration of quality pre-war multifamily apartment buildings north of I-280 along Arlington Avenue and south of I-280 along Munn Avenue, one of the great streets in the Urban Essex Corridor.
- NJ TRANSIT’s East Orange Train Station.
Each of these assets is physically separated from the others; by vacant properties, a poorly designed plaza, wide streets, and especially the elevated structure of the railroad and the wide expanse of Freeway Drive and Route 280. The key challenge is to fill these gaps with appropriate development to create a new physically connected community surrounding the station. This area is a pivotal location at the eastern terminus of the Main Street, in the center of these strong residential areas and some of the City’s most important institutions and government buildings. The challenge is how those gaps in the fabric can be repaired, especially the physical split created by Freeway Drive, Route 280 and NJ TRANSIT viaduct.
The City of East Orange has adopted four redevelopment plans for this area:
- The Evergreen Square District Redevelopment Plan,
- The City of East Orange Lower Main Street Redevelopment Plan,
- The City of East Orange Lower Main Street Phase II Redevelopment Plan, and
- The North Walnut Street Redevelopment Plan.
Key strategies to be considered include:
- Creating a plan that allows Civic Plaza to function as a focal point for the area and an anchor for the surrounding blocks.
- Considering options for re-using the station building itself. The station would have great value for its landmark presence on Main Street. This could require transferring control of the station from NJ TRANSIT to another entity to facilitate adaptive reuse of the station building.
- Redeveloping two blocks on the north side of Main Street between Walnut Street and Arlington Street.
- Demapping Main Street between Winans Street and Arlington Avenue to close up the gap on the south side of Main Street, west of the Station and eliminate a dangerous intersection on Freeway Drive.
- Working with Board of Education to identify ways to use the Cicely Tyson School facilities for entertainment events while connects the school better to Main Street.
- Transforming Freeway Drive into a slower-moving street that better balances the needs of pedestrians and vehicles and becomes less of a physical barrier between the residential communities to the south and the East Orange Station. And Civic Plaza.