The old Tremont Avenue School, which stood on Lincoln Avenue in Orange for more than a century, will be demolished to make way for a six-story apartment tower. The new development, approved by the planning board last week, will include 70 units and a rear parking garage with 79 spaces.
The plan, however, was met with opposition from neighbors who believe the building is out of scale and will make a citywide parking problem even worse. Allie Laurore, a Lincoln Avenue resident, said she would have preferred the property become single-family homes.
“Our street has three apartment buildings on it already which causes a lot of congestion,” Laurore said. “I am a homeowner in the city and building more homes, instead of apartments and condos, would allow families like mine to come in and invest in Orange and build generational wealth.”
The project’s architect Conrad Roncati, CEO of Corsair Construction, noted that the building’s design complies with the neighborhood’s zoning restrictions. “We do want to point out that because of the Lincoln Avenue redevelopment plan, we have designed a building that’s 100 percent conforming to all of the bulk requirements,” Roncati said.
Gerard Haizel, principal at the Nishuane Group, the firm hired as the city’s planner, said the building’s design was the result of “several meetings back and forth.” “lt suits the site quite well,” Haizel said.
Antoinette Jones, planning board member, asked Haizel if the existing building could be restored. Haizel said he was told that the school’s structural integrity was “in pretty disturbing shape,” but admitted he hadn’t seen it for himself.
However, Karen Wells, the city historian, believes the building could have been salvaged. “We’re against them tearing it down,” Wells said, who added that the historic preservation commission attempted to get the building listed on the National Register.
Wells noted that in the last few years alone, Orange has already lost a number of important historic buildings, including the Masonic Lodge, which was demolished after a fire last summer. Last council meeting, the city’s business administrator, Chris Hartwyck, announced a plan to demolish Orange Memorial Hospital, which is listed on the National Register.
The property was last the focus of redevelopment plans in 2020 when Chadwick Capital proposed to build Lincoln Avenue Heights, a four-story residential building with a half-story garage, Jersey Digs reported.
The Tremont Avenue School was originally a schoolhouse for grades five to eight, but was relatively small with only 10 classrooms and lacked both a gym and cafeteria, “which doomed the building as a school,” according to Don Dorflinger, author of history books on Orange and a graduate of the school.
“We walked up to Heywood Elementary School for gym class and went home for lunch or bought it at one of the local stores,” Dorflinger said. “My favorite lunch spot was the counter at Scotland Pharmacy.”
In 1974, the school became the police headquarters and remained that way until it was shuttered almost three decades later in 2001. “The building didn’t comply with state standards for municipal courtrooms,” said Don Wactor, the former police director and a retired captain. “The city had a new building built to comply with a court order for a new court.”
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