ROSELLE, N.J. — The borough intends to ask the state for about $14 million to upgrade its library, a decision that comes a little less than two years after it abandoned a grand project to build a $59 million facility that would have combined a new library, community center and early education school.
“We have an aging library and aging infrastructure,” Business Administrator Jack Lane said during a “Conversation with the Community” at Borough Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 1. “There are some major things that need to be done, cosmetically and otherwise.
“There’s a need and a demand. Students need the library and computer rooms, tech labs, and things like that. There’s a lot than can be done, we just don’t have the existing structure.”
Other municipalities also are preparing to ask the state for a share of the $125 million approved by a state referendum in 2016. Lane emphasized that while borough could receive the $14 million, it could also could get nothing.
Mayor Christine Dansereau said the library has many functions, calling it a center for business and a place of employment. The borough wants to expand the library to include an an “academic cultural center,” adding conference rooms to house GED programs, rooms for middle school students and include new programming. The idea comes after Roselle abandoned its 100,000-square-foot Mind and Body Complex project when a former board of education member sued the borough.
The complex was a school board initiative to build on a 5-acre wooded lot owned by the local Board of Education that is bordered by Chandler and Harrison Avenue to the west and east and homes on the on Jouet Street and Morris Place to the north and south. However, former BOE member Anthony Esposito lobbied against the project on the grounds the taxpayers couldn’t afford it and sued in 2017, claiming that the 2014 lease agreement for the borough to rent space for the complex was invalid since it required that financing for the project be in place by the end of 2015. The Union County Improvement Authority didn’t approve bonds for the project until 2016.
Residents were also told at the Oct. 1 meeting that the township will be receiving the first $25,000 installment of a total $525,000 Department of Community Affairs grant, which will be distributed during a five-year period.
The DCA funds are meant to begin a downtown redevelopment and revitalization project, along with a neighborhood preservation program. Lane stated that Roselle is one of 20 recipients of the DCA funds; business district improvements will be undertaken in the area between First and Third avenues.
“A neighborhood preservation program is just part of a total vision for redevelopment here in the borough of Roselle,” Lane said. “There are developers that come in and want to bring new businesses and want to build the things you’ve seen in other towns, but the kickoff is by getting some of this money. We do things that improve our retail district so that people can feel good about coming here.”
Dansereau added that the project would include adding self-watering rain gardens, better lighting, benches and curb sidewalks to slow vehicular traffic. The initiative is intended to make the shopping district more friendly for pedestrians and to demonstrate interest in their businesses.
“That is something that we have been working on for several years,” the mayor said.