Lawsuit halts West Orange Edison Village revamp

Planned $230M redevelopment hinges on $6.3M bond issue
May 23, 2014 04:10PM

Plans to redevelop the former Thomas Edison battery building in West Orange, N.J. into a 21-acre mixed use project with apartments, townhouses and retail space are on hold in light of a pending suit against township-funded infrastructure upgrades.

A group of five West Orange residents brought the suit against the Essex County township, which challenges a $6.3 million bond issue the township plans to use to fund infrastructure upgrades. The plaintiffs initially attempted to block the bond issue by gathering signatures in a bid for a referendum on the project’s financing, but wound up filing a lawsuit in 2012 after that effort failed.

The suit takes issue with the township’s bond ordinance approval, which the group told the Wall Street Journal was not vetted by the Local Finance Board of the state’s Department of Community Affairs, who is charged with overseeing municipal financial actions.

“We are challenging because we feel it’s not fair to taxpayers of West Orange to subsidize a private developer,” Windale Simpson, one of the residents who filed the suit, told the Journal. “We felt it wasn’t fair.”

Though the case is currently pending before the state Supreme Court, local officials told the Journal they are confident it will proceed because the township already went before the Local Finance Board in a number of steps leading up to the bond ordinance. Even if the court does decide in favor of the residents, Mayor Robert Parisi told the paper, they township can just go before the board again and secure their approval.

The project, located at Main Street and Lakeside Avenue, is being developed by Prism Capital Partners of nearby Bloomfield — a redevelopment firm selected by the township in 2006. Prism’s plan for Edison Village calls for 610 housing units and a 640-space parking garage. The old battery building would be redeveloped in the first phase to contain 310 loft-style apartments, and the building will also include a retail space, gym, pool and storage. Two additional phase call for the construction of 300 single-family homes, townhouses and loft units adjacent to the building, which will hold a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units between 700 and 2,300 square feet, according to the Journal. [WSJ]Julie Strickland