Township to Purchase Woman's Club for $1 Million

Mayor made surprise announcement on "gamechanger" for Maplewood at Tuesday's Township Committee meeting.


Maplewood Township will purchase the beleaguered Maplewood Woman's Club property for $1 million -- half its listing price -- according to a statement made by Mayor Vic DeLuca at Tuesday's Township Committee meeting.

The committee voted 5-0 to move ahead with the purchase and to authorize the debt to be included in the capital budget.

DeLuca said the committee began to discuss the possible purchase after learning of the recent collapse of the deal between the club and local philanthropist Tom Kerns, founder of the HK Project.

DeLuca said the township wanted to purchase the property to be used for the public.

The fact that the township could gain sorely needed parking spaces was a huge factor in the committee's decision, said Committeeman Jerry Ryan after the meeting. The move would make a minimum of 60 additional parking spaces available to the township, depending on how the space was configured.

"Paramount in the decision was our strong interest in maintaining the viability of Maplewood Village as a premier shopping area," said DeLuca. "The Woman's Club property will give us the ability to dramatically increase Village parking to service the community's needs."

He also said the committee was aware of the building's importance to the community, but that "time has not been a friend to the building. Our intention is to evaluate what it would take to keep the building standing. We will explore a partnership with non-profit groups and the private sector to see what is possible. We understand the value of that building and will be guided by its history as we move forward." 

He commended the dedication and commitment of the Woman's Club members in enabling the deal to happen. "They could have made more on the sale to a developer but instead want to work with the Township to create a community benefit," said DeLuca. "Acquiring this property is a game changer for Maplewood Village. We thank the members of the Woman's Club for their decision to sell the property to the Township."

Ryan called it a "unique once in a lifetime opportunity for us." He said that in one fell swoop, the township could address parking congestion in the village and explore ways to partner with non-profits and other third parties to make the club into a space that could benefit the community.

Ryan pointed out that the purchase would force the committee to make an exception to its practice of shrinking the capital budget as it had for the past several years, but that he thought it was worth it.

DeLuca told Patch after the meeting that the township would still go through with defending the current lawsuit involving the Zoning Board of Adjustment's decision to grant a variance for the site. "The board's decision was proper and we are moving forward with the lawsuit," he said.

DeLuca said the township would consider partnering with various non-profit organizations such as the VFW, which has been looking for a space of its own, or HK Project. Ryan said the township might issue an RFP to lease an entity to operate the building.

However, both emphasized that this was just the first step in a longer process that would involve closing on the sale, evaluating the building and its repair needs and beginning discussions on how best to use the property.

Caroline Farnsworth, the property's listing agent, issued the following statement to Patch after the meeting: "The Woman's Club would prefer to close sooner rather than later, and believes this agreement with the town will enable them to do so with limited risk. They are happy to have come to agreement quickly and to move forward on this deal with the town."

Patch will have more on this story as details develop.

CJV February 20, 2013 at 10:15 AM
So they kept it a secret from the people who have to pay the $1 million?
CJV February 20, 2013 at 10:44 AM
PS Carolyn, please don't refer to a hyped "listing price" as-if the town got a great deal here. We know the price the WC was going to sell to TK to, and that sale fell thru.
Hilding Lindquist February 20, 2013 at 12:04 PM
This is a gamechanger for Maplewood for all the reasons Mayor DeLuca identifies, and more. Once again the Woman's Club of Maplewood has performed a hugely signifcant service for our community, and the Township Committee carried through. Bravo! (FORTISSIMO) to all involved.
Wayling League February 20, 2013 at 12:31 PM
I can't figure out this place. We bargain sale the police property so we can offset the debt of the new police station. Then we have public meetings to purchase a $40,000 generator. Then we have surprise announcements to buy a white elephant property to get 60 parking spaces? God give me strength ... and a raise because we taxpayers are gonna have to foot the bill for this madness.
Lee Navlen February 20, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Donald Trump De Luca strikes again! The town gets the building for a pennies on the dollar! The hard part will be the eventual flip of the property that should take place once the law suit is settled. I'm sure the Mayor has someone interested.
KIM February 20, 2013 at 12:59 PM
So the neighbors initiate a lawsuit to stop a private sale and the town, in another stunning 5-0 vote, comes to their rescue by taking on more debt? Will the neighbors pay for the annual maintenance and repairs when the facility fails to generate an income? How much will this cost us each year? A million dollars for a few parking spaces which are only really needed on Friday and Saturday nights? Ironically, there are always public spaces open just across the street from the Women's Center right behind the movie theatre.
Clive February 20, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Certainly a move in the right direction. Great that as community leaders they have stood up and took action to harvest a great opportunity for the benefit of the community. Let's hope there are no new twist or turns. Great job guys let's close this deal QUICKLY!
Wayne Sullivan February 20, 2013 at 02:30 PM
So the TC had initially decided that the Women's Club needed to pay more taxes since they were hosting many for-profit events thus calling in to question their non-profit status. The Women's Club couldn't afford those taxes so they decided they had to sell the place. Tom Kern comes along as a White Knight to buy the place and fix it up to host events but the neighbors sue to block the sale because they are worried about noise and parking issues so Tom pulls out of the deal so the TC now decides to buy the place with money that they will have to borrow and pay interest on hoping that the place doesn't deteriorate too much more before they can find someone else to lease the place who would undoubtedly wish to host events which may involve unknown noise and parking issues that the neighbors may or may not be able to block. Meanwhile, there will be no taxes paid on the property but a parking lot may now become available that few people will want to walk to at the same time that future development of the Post office site will largely alleviate parking conditions as the postal workers will no longer be parking in town. Do I have that right?
Sasquatch February 20, 2013 at 02:44 PM
I hope buying this building and associated parking turns out better for the community than the women's club already was before it was shut down by the town for not being a tax source. Now we are paying a million??? I doubt there will be any committed staff like there was before, also when has a municipality maintained an ancient (run down) historic building like this successfully? Bet instead of a nice old community hall for local events like weddings and theater, it will be plowed down for parking max parking... I hope not!
EnoughisEnough February 20, 2013 at 03:35 PM
So we're turning a ratable into a non-reatable. This TC is officially out of control.
Lee Navlen February 20, 2013 at 04:05 PM
It's clear that this purchase was made with a PROFITABLE flip in mind. Once the lawsuit is settled, we'll see high end apartments. In the meantime, the Mayor will have his right hand man, Ryan spout that it's about parking and non-profits looking for a place to hang their collective hats. Sure Jerry. I'm actually quite impressed with the Mayor on this one. De Luca literally stole the property from the WC and frankly speaking, there's nothing wrong with that because it's good for Maplewood. This is right out of the Donald Trump handbook on real estate investment.
KIM February 20, 2013 at 05:04 PM
So Lee are you accusing the TC of misleading the public, that they have a scheme cooking on the back burner which is contrary to their stated intentions? Please let everyone know if you have any evidence to back this up.
CJV February 20, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Lee, no such notion is "clear" at all. I hope you're right, but Vic's words are not to that effect. Vic says it's about securing the parking in large part, and nobody will buy the building without having the parking. I will grant you that Vic's words have far less meaning of late, though.
Areyouserious February 20, 2013 at 05:17 PM
profitable flip? The TC is not nor should it be in the business of real estate speculation. Am I living in a parallel universe?
Lee Navlen February 20, 2013 at 05:37 PM
Vic will soon "determine" that the cost of repairing the building far out weighs the cost of tearing it down. He'll then take it down like he did the police station but unlike the police station we won't be dealing with a contaminated property so the cost of tearing it down is minimal. He then sells a flat piece of property to a builder (which si what they want) for what should be a very good profit based on the fact he paid nothing for it. 1.1 mil is a steal for that location. As I said, the Mayor hit a grand slam...
Lee Navlen February 20, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Yes, which is why they're saying it's for parking and the building.. B.S. Vic and by that I mean Maplewood plan on making money on this one.Finally something to offset the new police station.
Lee Navlen February 20, 2013 at 05:59 PM
One more point. No one is more critical than I am of the Mayor who had snubbed his nose repeatedly at our schools, at our after school programs and our tax crisis. He evenrecently stated to the Huffington Post that protecting unions, not homeowners is his number one concern!! All that said, this is a good deal, perhaps a little under handed but not illegal and certainly not illogical. He'll send Jerry Ryan out there with the pomp pomps, telling us it's about parking and preservation but in the end he'll sell the property. I have no doubt.
KIM February 20, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Fantastic, another lawsuit when the Women's Club sues the town for misrepresenting the deal.
CJV February 20, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Lee, we lost $20 million in the police station trade orchestrated by Vic. Any "offsets" are only partial.
AZ February 20, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Near term very bold move by TC as property in downtown to be used by the public. Clearly residents of Woodland would prefer residential use and the Village Alliance would like parking and more public traffic, so score one for the the village. Question is are you rooting for Village commerce or quiet residential use? Tough call for me since I live on Woodland and would like both!
Nick VonKlock February 20, 2013 at 06:49 PM
Moronic; just moronic.....you scream and shout that you need higher taxes then decide you need some generator you don't need and now you buy a house you don't need. If you have a million dollars to spend, why do you need more taxes? Oh, you need more taxes because you don't have a million dollars to spend! Moronic! Can't wait to hear how you brilliantly deal with the post office...oh, wasn't some mention of too many tattoo parlors? Maybe the same consultant advised you on this deal....
Laura Duncan February 20, 2013 at 06:52 PM
I suggest the following. Keep the parking for the town and use the building for a place for our local teenagers to have a social life in a safe environment other than the streets of Maplewood. Vending machines, music, games and possibly a smoothie/snack bar or the likes. All of us parents are tired of seeing the teens hanging out on stoops and in parks late at night when they need a free safe place other than their own home to enjoy eachother's company and not too far from home. Our town has no place like this so they wind up on the street — even in frigid temperatures. Lets show them the respect and trust they deserve. Maplewood teens and parents are so industrious I have no doubt that some kind of volunteer system could be set up for the care and design of a place like this. Feedback?
Lee Navlen February 20, 2013 at 10:04 PM
You can't spend a million dollars for a teen club house so that's not going to happen. Perhaps, another alternative might be to turn the building into the new lovely styled town hall allowing the town to sell the old town hall to a developer who might then create a sprawling apartment complex. Bottom line again, there's alot of flexibility because the WC purchase price is so low. AND CJV: Obviously, there's no way to recap the financial disaster that was the new police station but you know what, the WC purchase and PROBABLE flip is the closest thing the TC has found to at least begin the process of demonstrating they do in fact understand real estate and real estate values. If they can make 2 mil on the deal, I don't think many of us would have anything to complain about. Vic is doing the right thing.. Marlon is doing the right thing.. Kathy, India, etc. This is going to be a financial home run....
Wayling League February 21, 2013 at 11:01 AM
After some consideration, I'm pretty sure this is much more simple than it appears. There's what's publicly seen, and what's not quite publicly seen. 1. TC votes to approve unanimously to acquire the property for what seems to be a bargain price with no obvious plans. (In the background, somebody has a plan, and it was revealed to council members, sort of.) 2. Mayor announces the search for a public/private partner to help develop the property. Watch for some kind of loan guarantee like the governor's deal to bailout the Xanadu project with the same sort of pitch "Hey, it's right THERE in the Center of New Jersey! We can't have that eyesore." Swap a couple of nouns and it'll be the same. Besides, what else is on the bond issue that requires $3 million besides trucks? 3. Much noise about "due diligence" will be made, yet the same names will surface and a new partner may appear. Then they'll publicly determine that the enormous sum of money needed to make the property useful will not make sense. Police station redux. 4. One of two things will then happen. The property will be leveled buy a new buyer who can either a) turn it into residential or b) turn it into a parking structure and the public/private partnership is extended. At public meetings regarding the post office or Dunnell property, I've heard that the priority is TC controls the development of the property. God forbid you should let someone acquire it and then go through the processes for changing zoning!
KIM February 21, 2013 at 12:20 PM
Even before the lawsuit a private developer didn't want the property so how is the town going to flip it for a 200% profit? Do any of the TC members have a successful track record in real estate? From private hands to public hands and then back to private again, the old police station is not an applicable model in this case. And with regard to alternative uses, what this town desperately needs, and can use as a selling point to compete with other communities for future homeowners, is more classrooms -- we are busting at the seems.
CJV February 24, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Lee, as much as I wanted your hypothesis to be true, there is no evidence the township is going to do anything with the property except use the space as a parking lot. The neighbors have won a big victory, albeit at the expense of the town they live in. Outrageous? Yes. But factual.
Lee Navlen February 24, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Evidence? What kind of evidence are you looking for? Are you buying Jerry Ryan's claim that the purchase was made for 60 spots? Believe me, the last guy De Luca is discussing this thing with is Ryan who cannot keep a secret. One of two things will happen. The building will be torn down and the property flipped or De Luca will settle the lawsuit and get another interested party to buy it to host events. The greasy wheels are in motion..
Lee Navlen February 24, 2013 at 09:07 PM
one more point.The legal issue of speculating on real estate won't be an issue if the building is condemned. In that there's a great chance that it will, the Mayor can then flip the property while indicating the flip was never a part of the original plan but became a issue once the building was no longer usable.
Joe Gonzalez February 25, 2013 at 09:36 PM
I'm new to Maplewood...just moved here about 2 years ago from the city (well, actually Brooklyn, which is technically part of NYC). I'm a new parent and wanted great schools, safety, a great community "aura", and a short commute to the city (so I can spend more time with my son) which everyone that I spoke to said Maplewood can deliver on. I was warned about the taxes, and I'm definitely seeing why. I reasoned that which such high taxes, the benefit must be great. I just started getting involved with these types of stories on The Patch, and I have to say it saddens me to hear that the committee spends a million taxpayer dollars on a property for parking and the "hope" that they can work with someone to make the building into a place that can serve the community. Shouldn't that kind of research be done in advance to determine the proper return of the sale? I think that is just common sense. Even if the building is deteriorating badly, I don't see the logic. And parking? I go downtown frequently and have never had a problem finding parking. Maybe it is because I'm from the city and have seen much much worse parking conditions, but I don't see the benefit.
Stephen Sekel March 11, 2013 at 03:20 AM
Apart from gaining some (60 is the number that has been mentioned) parking spaces -- and I hope we are not contemplating a multi-level parking garage for commuters (which would increase traffic congestion unacceptably and unsustainably in Maplewood village during rush hours), what other ideas can the Township share with us about the redevelopment of the Women's Club? What about repurposing the space into condominium or rental studios for the arts -- music, dance, drawing and painting, and drama. Maplewood is already an artsy community and there is probably a pent-up demand for reasonably priced space for these purposes.


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