Baird Community Center

Project Summary

The Village of South Orange is moving ahead with plans to completely renovate the Baird Community Center on Mead Street. 

In April of 2018, a new front entrance was completed on the building with the assistance of an ADA grant from Essex County. While the primary purpose of the project was to improve accessibility, the design is historically compatible with the old building and creates a beautiful entrance and surrounding porch area that residents of the community can be proud of.

Also in 2018, the Village completed the renovation of the current public bathrooms in the community center, bringing them into ADA compliance. This project was also done with significant Essex County Community Development Block Grant funding.

The Village is now proceeding with final plans to completely renovate the entire Baird Community Center.  The Biber Partnership was retained as the project architect, tasked with completing design plans and construction specification documents. Over a period of 12-18 months, the architects met regularly with key members of the Recreation & Cultural Affairs Committee, including Trustees Karen Hartshorn Hilton, Walter Clark and Steve Schnall, along with Department staff. Many public meetings were held to gather additional input from residents, community groups and organizations.  A new survey of the property was completed. Preliminary plans were presented at a Board of Trustee meeting on March 25, 2019; revised and nearly complete plans were presented on September 9.  The project is expected to go out for public bid later this fall and construction to begin by year end.

The planned improvements at the Baird will include roof replacement, repairs and restoration of the building exterior, including the replacement of the 2nd story porch, and a complete renovation of the community center interior. The “new” building will include a beautiful community space and café that leads out to the porch, dance and fitness spaces, dedicated art rooms, a multi-purpose performance space and a public meeting space. The Pierro Gallery will be housed on the first level in the renovated building. Finally, there will be a two-story field house addition that will include a garage and storage on the ground level and a gymnasium on the 2nd floor.

The Baird Community Center will close for the duration of the renovation and reconstruction, which is anticipated to take approximately 2 years. The building closure will impact adjacent and related recreation facilities as follows:

  • Basketball Courts:  The basketball courts adjacent to the Baird will remain accessible only until the construction begins. The courts will fall inside the fenced in area defining the construction zone.
  • The platform courts will be removed from the 5 Mead Street location.  It has been determined that these courts cannot be salvaged. The Village plans to include new paddle tennis courts in a future project located in an alternate location.
  • The batting cages located in the garage behind the Baird will be closed. The garage will be demolished as part of the project. The site will be the location of the new field house addition to the building.
  • Tennis Courts: The tennis courts are not expected to be impacted by the construction project.
  • Park and Ballfields: These areas are not expected to be directly impacted by the construction project. It is possible that baseball/softball diamond #1 will be out of play during part of the project. Portable toilets will need to take the place of the public facilities previously accessible at the Baird. Parking may also be effected during certain phases of the project.

The offices of the Department of Recreation & Cultural Affairs and the South Orange Parking Authority will relocate to 298 Walton Avenue, South Orange, near Farrell Field and the Department of Public Works.

While we regret the inconvenience this renovation will cause our residents and patrons, we are very excited about the prospect of a new and fabulous Recreation and Cultural Arts Center that will serve our community well for many years into the future.

Click HERE for the most recent presentation and drawings.

Schedule & Updates

Subject to change, last revision 3/25/2019

Phase One (Pre Design)July 2018
Phase Two (Design Development)January 2019
Construction Documents May 2019
Public BiddingJune 2019
ConstructionSeptember 2019
Project Completion May 2021

Project Manager / Contact 

Peter Travers, Deputy Director of Recreation and Cultural Affairs
Recreation and Cultural Affairs
(973) 378-7715 Ext. 2322

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