Orange Station / Tony Galento Plaza
The Orange Station was built in 1918 when the new freight yard was built and the rail line was elevated between Orange Station and Mountain Station. The station consists of two buildings; a larger passenger building on the NYC-bound side of the line, and a smaller building on the west-bound side of the line. The eastbound building is open for passengers during morning hours when weather is cold. The smaller building does not open for passengers. Ridership at the Orange Station is almost 1200 passengers per day, the third highest in the Corridor. This is due to ample parking at the station and Midtown Direct service to Penn Station New York.
The area surrounding Orange Station has many opportunities for redevelopment and overall improvement. The area is a mix of uses, including industrial, residential, retail and office. The station is located just one short block south of Main Street. Main Street is a very lively, traditional downtown retail area with few vacant retail spaces. However, many buildings in the area have vacant floors above the stores on the ground floor. The area contains Orange’s historic public library building and post office, a new grammar school, and City Hall. The community to the south of the station is physically and visually disconnected from Main Street by the station’s embankments and bridges carrying the elevated tracks through the area. Route 280 and Freeway Drive immediately south of the rail line add to the sense of separation between the station and communities to the south. South of Freeway Drive and Route 280 is an older community, known as Little Italy, with occupied smaller retail spaces. However, in this same area across South Essex Avenue from the older retail business newer retail space on the ground floor of new multi-story residential buildings, which remains vacant several years after the building opened.
The vacant 9.5 acre Orange Hospital complex, which is a few blocks from the station, is a major redevelopment opportunity, and reinforces the need for improved pedestrian access to the station from the south. Ten years ago, the Orange Memorial Hospital suddenly closed, leaving its several buildings vacant, deteriorating and undeveloped. Plans for 375 market-rate condos were approved but the redeveloper decided not to proceed when the housing market came to a halt in 2008-09. The property has a new owner but plans have not been made public for reuse of the site or its buildings.
The residential area south of Interstate 280, inbounded by Essex Avenue and the East Orange border has experienced multiple challenges over the past three decades. Closing of the hospital was a major blow to the neighborhood but the slow physical and social deterioration of the area’s two public housing projects had serious negative impacts as well. Today both of those housing projects have been replaced by attractive, privately owned, well managed low-income housing. Essex Court on Essex Avenue, the site of the former Father Rasi Public Housing complex has 75 units; the Walter G. Alexander complex replaced a project of the same name. Phase III of that project is now being built and the entire project includes 156 total new low-income rental units.
HANDS, Inc. renovated several vacant houses and is building new houses in the neighborhood, and more recently Orange Housing Development Corporation and RPM Development have begun a new wave of rehabilitation of vacant and deteriorated houses and smaller apartment buildings there.
There is significant redevelopment occurring around the station in this area. L+M Development has built 72 units of rental housing in a Transit Oriented Development immediately south of the station. On the north side of the station, the redevelopment of the Tony Galento Plaza is a key opportunity to improve the connections between the railroad station and Main Street. The RPM-led project includes 239 parking spaces, 113 rental units, 6,000 SF of retail and 30 residential condominiums in a Transit Oriented Development. Also, one-half block from the station HANDS, Inc. has redeveloped the historic Chronicle building into residential, retail and office space. Southwest of the station LycoRed will be adding to its existing industrial facility.
Additional opportunities include:
- Improving pedestrian access across Freeway Drive and Route 280 so areas to the south have better connections to the station.
- Evaluating options for improving publicly and privately owned public spaces at the station, to allow more public events at the station and the creation of a hub for the station area.
- Streetscape improvements, such as better pedestrian connections, to and from the station from the south and the north,
- Strengthening the retail businesses on the sidestreets that feed onto Main Street, especially along Cleveland Street directly in front of the station, and along South Essex Street south of Route 280.
- Adaptive reuse of the Orange Station building to a more friendly commercial use can help make Tony Galento Plaza a more successful and active public space; this, in turn, will increase the value of all of the surrounding properties.