07/2010 Update: The Maplewood Township Committee voted to proceed with negotiating a redevelopment agreement with a developer for the purchase and development of the old police station. A multi-unit residential development of three floors of housing above one floor of parking is proposed for the site, and therefore the old Police Station will be demolished.
10/2009: On May 19, 2009, the same day that the 2009 “10 Most” list was announced, the Maplewood Township Committee approved a resolution expressing its preference for the redevelopment of the Police Headquarters Building. In September 2009, the Metro Company and the Township of Maplewood released a draft redevelopment plan that proposes demolition of the Police Headquarters and replacement with a residential development including up to 50 units. A coalition of local advocates known as the “Save Memorial Park” group is challenging this proposal.
When Maplewood Township was incorporated in 1922, it undertook a campaign to create a new identity for the former Township of South Orange. Wanting to signal the changing demographics of the new town as it moved from an agrarian village to an early 20th-century railroad suburb, Maplewood undertook an ambitious municipal building program in the center of town. The centerpiece of this transformation was a large, picturesque park, Maplewood Memorial Park, designed by the renowned Olmstead Brothers landscape firm on 25 acres near the Delaware, Lakawanna & Western Railroad tracks. The park, with its curving paths, wooded glens and open fields, was dedicated in 1931. Surrounding the park, the township constructed new buildings to house municipal services. Several Maplewood public buildings, all fine examples of 20th-century civic design, were sited around the park’s perimeter, including the municipal building, fire station, public works building, and the police headquarters building, which is now threatened. The public library was later added along the southern border, and together with the original public buildings, forms an intact, cohesive group of the town’s most significant public buildings surrounding an equally significant public open space. As the loss of even one of the elements that make up this cohesive group would significantly diminish the integrity of the ensemble as a whole and it’s effective representation of a unique transitional period in Maplewood’s history, the threat to the Maplewood Police Headquarters is of great concern.
The Maplewood Police Headquarters, built in 1930, is a two-story brick civic building designed in the Classical Revival style by architect Charles C. Grant, who lived in Maplewood but had his office in New York City. The building was in continuous use as the police headquarters through Spring 2008 and is therefore in good condition. However, the building is now threatened with an uncertain future. The township constructed a new police headquarters building which opened in 2008, and for which the historic headquarters building was vacated. The township has since expressed interest in selling the historic headquarters building for possible redevelopment, without restrictions on its future existence. When the township issued a request for proposals for the former police headquarters earlier this year, it received four expressions of interest from developers, three of which included demolishing the building. An attempt to designate the park and surrounding buildings as a local historic district last year was voted down by the Township Committee, and the governing body has not seemed willing to discuss placing deed restrictions on the building prohibiting its demolition. If this building were lost, it would adversely impact the unique historic ensemble character of the civic buildings surrounding Maplewood Memorial Park. Finding new uses for historic civic buildings is a dilemma that is faced by many municipalities across New Jersey — the Maplewood Police headquarters represents scores of these buildings than could be adaptively used and thereby continue contributing to the vitality of historic communities.
Virginia Kurshan, Chair, Maplewood Historic Preservation Commission