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February  21

School's Out, Condos In

Bloomfieldsouth3 Bloomfield South Junior High School stood vacant for almost two decades, now it's going condo. A company called Urban Smart Growth is developing the Franklin Street property into a luxury loft-style development with 116 units. According to their website, amenities will include a gym, theatre, recreation room, on site super and a shuttle to the commuter train at peak hours. More about how the space will be converted from the Star Ledger...

Because of the school's history -- it was built in art-deco style in 1939 -- the existing structure can't be severely altered, said Ron Wierks, vice president of Urban Smart Growth. The Rhode Island-based company bought the old school for $3.5 million in January 2004.

The size of the classroom, science lab or auditorium will determine the size of the condo, penthouse and recreation and fitness area, Wierks said. The building's wide hallways will stay and all the windows will be replaced with ones similar to the originals, he said.

"We have to keep the historic integrity so all the windows will be like the ones there now, the stairwells will remain intact and the layout won't change much," Wierks said. "The shell will remain the same."

February 21, 2006 in Buzz | Permalink


There were some beautiful descriptions of how the interior looked "back in the day" on the Star Ledger Bloomfield forum some months back. Architects travelled from out of town and overseas to see it, as it was considered a state of the art example of school architecture when it went up.

Posted by: skipwith | Feb 21, 2006 12:52:07 PM

I climbed through a window there once to see what it was like. There was a 2 foot high pile of dead birds on the floor of the gym.

Posted by: M. Bison | Feb 21, 2006 12:59:40 PM

When will they have to build a new school to take care of the new residents?

Posted by: Bitpusher | Feb 21, 2006 1:03:16 PM

Well, its nice to see that they are going to use the place for something. I could never understand why "they" waited so long. Who are "they"? The BOE? The town?

Posted by: lasermike026 | Feb 21, 2006 1:27:34 PM

The BOE sold it years ago. I know the property has changed hands 2 or 3 times in the past 5 years. Each of those owners / developers had plans for condos.

Posted by: skipwith | Feb 21, 2006 1:32:18 PM

I've noticed it when driving by on occasion and have been really impressed by the lines of the building in spite of it's terrible eyesore condition -really glad to hear that it's actually going to be rehabilitated (though not as a school). Should hopefully give the immediate neighborhood a real shot in the arm.

Posted by: man in the street | Feb 21, 2006 1:47:27 PM

Speaking of Bloomfield does anyone know whats going on Macarthur Ave. right next to the Watsessing Train Station?
This morning I noticed bulldozers & trailers now set up on that piece of property so they are obviously getting ready to start something?.

Posted by: Yazzie | Feb 21, 2006 2:12:40 PM

With the prices of new apartments/townhouses in East Orange and Belleville, I can't begin to imagine what the price tags will be for these units. Also, will the local elementary school (Berkeley?) be able to absorb the additional kids?

Posted by: MadBrian | Feb 21, 2006 2:32:59 PM

nice to know that someone in bloomfield (by way of RI) cares for historic preservation.

Posted by: Murph | Feb 21, 2006 2:38:03 PM

I recall reading a history of the building some time ago that mentioned that the school had once appeared on the cover of the old LOOK magazine shortly after it was built because it was considered state of the art at the time. So glad to see they are rehabing it. Better late than never I guess.

On the old Watsessing train station - I believe NJ Transit was scheduled to restore the station at some point. Perhaps now?? It definitely needed it.

Posted by: todd | Feb 21, 2006 2:42:47 PM

This project reminds me of the old school building on Glenridge Ave. near nicolo's that they turned into condos a few years back. I actually took a look at one of the places and while the setup was amazing and much of the school remained intact, the condos were smallish (high ceilings, but a tiny two rooms). I wonder if this will be similar.

M. Bison: A little urban exploration, eh? Got any digital pix?

Posted by: notteham | Feb 21, 2006 3:12:20 PM

For another example, there was school building readapted to condos some years ago in Bloomfield - albeit less sensitively. Check out the old Brookside elementary school/condos on Essex St in Bloomfield. While the exterior building was left intact, some of the finishes were less sensitive to the building's original design.

Posted by: todd | Feb 21, 2006 3:37:42 PM

This rumor pops up every so often.

The problem in that area is the tech school. When school lets out piles of kids just hang out - (I'm not saying bad kids or anything like that) - but the noise level crazy.

Also that street gets so tied up with traffic from drop off/pick up times, with parked cars lingering, double parking, etc.

There is a building of condos two buildings over - does anyone know how much the last one of those sold for?

Posted by: hrhppg | Feb 21, 2006 4:26:19 PM

I took an 'Intro to Historic Preservation' course at Drew University 3 years ago and chose this building as the subject of my final project. I knew I wanted to give it my attention when I almost drove off the road the first time I ever saw it -- it's so absolutely amazing! My paper made the case to preserve the building as it is a perfect example of art deco streamline moderne architecture. It was really fun to research the building's history and look at the great old photos of the newly finished structure. And, yes, it was considered an up to the moment state of the art facility -- one of the first school buildings to be designed to serve the planned curriculum. Since my 'love affair' with the building I've been keeping a watchful eye on it with much trepidation. I'm relieved to hear it will be 'preserved' (although one never really knows what that could mean) but saddened if once again luxury housing is created where affordable housing is needed.

Posted by: fussyhostess | Feb 21, 2006 4:31:08 PM

Yes, it was a beautiful building. I was part of the last graduating class at South (1987). We buried a time capsule under the front grass area. I wonder if it's going to be dug up. Anyway, isn't odd the high school has expanded exponentially, but the elementary and middle schools have remained the same. Is there an increase in population or are other towns busing students to BHS.

Posted by: filippo | Feb 21, 2006 4:43:45 PM

This sort of breaks my heart. I know it's wasteful and ultimately I wish they'd just never closed it in the first place, but I'm sad knowing such totally romantic in that creepy and haunted if you believe in that sort of thing will be gone. And that it will become condos and not something more civic oriented is what hurts the most. I've been inside a few times because that's what good teenagers do and I feel sorry for the people who have to clean up that mess. Hopefully they really will keep a lot of the original structure because I can't even begin to go on about how unbelievably cool and kitschy it is inside, from the 50's style cafeteria to the old phonograph style loud speaker system, and the circular stairwells to the marble plaque above the entrance to the auditorium proclaiming: "Education for All, Maximum Development of Each Individual." Oh, and like M.Bison said- the place, at least in the 90s, was FILLED with dead birds and their poop.

Posted by: Meghan | Feb 21, 2006 5:08:05 PM

what comprises the 'historic district' of bloomfield anyway? bloomfield ave to the (abandoned?) train tracks and broad st to spruce st?

Posted by: fabioj | Feb 21, 2006 5:31:07 PM

I was at South the last year it was opened and I can tell you that the interior of the school was so beautiful and in many cases nostalgic (including an apartment as a teaching aid for the Home Ec. classroom)! If some of the beautiful fixtures still exist within the building I hope the developers keep it.


Posted by: Dani | Feb 21, 2006 6:49:33 PM

went there years ago myself, I'm just relieved it's not getting ripped down. i have great memories of how it looked inside, pleased others noticed. trust me, everyone that taught or went there comments on it's beauty and design. this place was like bad behavior's Mecca, but that's jr. high. how terribly short-sighted it was when they closed this asset(Brookside,too).

Posted by: j | Feb 21, 2006 9:17:05 PM

In 1993-4 I can attest to "The Middle School" being a mecca of bad behavior and all things spirit crushing, only sans the inspiring architecture.

Posted by: Meghan | Feb 21, 2006 10:17:51 PM

Where is this building located?

Posted by: dan Epstein | Feb 22, 2006 11:41:54 AM

I live in the apartments next to the school. I am so tired of looking at that building in its eyesore condition. I cannot wait until they do something. The garbage and broken glass that are left is horrible. Also, the house across the street (beautiful old tudor but in disrepair) is finally on the market. Does anyone know how much?

Posted by: Karen | Feb 22, 2006 2:02:59 PM

Karen, I check out that house you are talking about all the time when I sneak down that street to get to the S&S. I always wondered if it was a one family or an apt. bldg?? Do you know? I can't tell if I am spooked by the house or in love with it!

Posted by: jb | Feb 22, 2006 2:29:59 PM

That house is not an apartment, it was a single family home and had been abandoned for quite a while. I've heard rumors from people that live on the block that it was once owned by a doctor and that it is now owned by someone who had a very popular restaurant in Montclair.

Posted by: Karen | Feb 23, 2006 1:10:42 PM

I just learned that the house on the corner of Willard Ave. and Franklin St. for sale is for by the owner and owner of a new real estate agency, Be Smart America.

Posted by: Karen | Feb 24, 2006 10:03:08 AM

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