December 20th, 2018
SHOULD OUR PLANNING BOARD APPROVE A PLAN WITH NEARLY HALF THE REQUIRED PARKING AND REMOVAL OF OUR HISTORIC LANDMARK ASSETS IN THE DOWNTOWN CENTER BASED ON CLAIMS BY THIS DEVELOPER???
The public comment should start Monday, January 14, 7:30 at 205 Claremont. Be there if you care about the downtown. Democracy requires citizen involvement so those with their own agenda cannot step in to take advantage when no one is paying attention. ***Check the town site and planning board pages for last minute changes.
This last Monday, the Planning Board heard testimony from ""objectors" or opponents of this developer's plan for Lackawanna Plaza. This included testimony from an architectural expert specializing in preservation of transportation hubs as well as a local reuse architect's project design which could resolve many concerns including parking space and preservation of historic station assets.
On Monday, January 14 at least one more objector is expected to speak before public comment proceeds and potentially the planning board vote. Concerned residents filling seats and/or speaking out helps the planning board determine what is important to residents and momentum to follow that lead.
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A vote to reject or approve could be this same night. Ground breaking is not expected for 3 or more years according to previous statements by the developer.
The developer’s plan includes a 48000 sq foot store, seeks to reduce the required 859 spaces by 400 spaces with a parking variance and to expand current parking with the removal of some stanchions or train sheds of the historic train station. The planning board's consulting supermarket designer stated the appropriate store size according to industry trends for smaller markets and for this Lackawanna Plaza urban site should be no larger than 35000 sq feet. A smaller size store would not require additional parking and negate the need to destroy parts of the station. The 30,000 sq foot downtown Cedar Grove Foodtown market with parking according to code has succeeded since 1985 under the same owner.
The developer's plan requires valet service as well as shared parking using spaces built for the new apartment building in an attempt to compensate for lack of 400 parking spaces. The current parking on Bloomfield Ave at the Pig and Prince lot and Plaza mall would be expanded over the size of a football field along Bloomfield Ave by destroying or moving some train sheds.
In addition to questions whether valet and shared parking would reliably supply needed parking, there are concerns for the permanent management of these services, the customer's cost of the valet services and the recourse the town would have if management falls short in the future. Although the developers parking expert told the planning board that cost of valet service is unknown, the Mountainside Hospital valet service is $8 according to their website.
Critics of this plan also site pedestrian safety concerns, flow of traffic on Glenridge Ave and the massive and unsightly parking lot on Bloomfield Ave which is camouflaged in the developer's site illustrations.
History of project reviews
The developer has not allowed any temporary grocer to use the empty Pathmark since 2015 and consequently provided leverage by creating a food desert.
Since last spring, the developer has ignored the request by the Planning Board's chairman to work with Historic Preservation Commission members to develop a plan which could be approved.
The developer has refused to alter his plan to destroy train sheds for parking spaces, although national preservation standards require a landmark to remain intact.
Residents, planning board members and the Historic Preservation Commission members have worked many hours to gain an attractive development which would enhance the neighborhood and downtown center. These volunteers need more residents to help to stop this plan by attending meetings and communicating with Councilors.
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More details from the objectors are here in the Montclair Local article.
IF YOU ARE NOT OUTRAGED THEN YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION…LACKAWANNA PLAZA, THE LAST CHANCE TO AFFECT DECISIONS.
This plan provides for almost half the normal parking requirement and partial destruction of a designated historic landmark. Whether you value history and historic assets or not, this site has been established as valuable by professionals in the field and that should be respected by town officials, the Planning Board, the property owner and informed residents. Historic districts are proven valuable economic and tourist magnets for towns and the Montclair's policy guideline them preserved. This is an opportunity to showcase Montclair's downtown but not with this plan.
The obvious solution proposed by the Planning Board’s own supermarket design consultant is a smaller supermarket and required parking, would be consistent with industry trends and urban locations. Instead, months have gone by trying to tweek an irresponsible, bad plan.
The 30,000 square foot downtown Cedar Grove Foodtown has appropriate parking and successfully operated since 1985 by the same owner. Does anyone expect a 47, 000 square foot supermarket, medical offices and new and existing neighborhood businesses to thrive without enough convenient parking.
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The developer's parking expert argued how they would compensate for the parking deficit with shared and valet parking. Each concept has its flaws and if not very successful could be chaotic or disastrous for the businesses and then the downtown.
This developer has created delays and attempts to deceive the planning board and public with bogus testimony by paid experts to justify and impose a poorly designed site plan to maximize lease income. Each new plan proposed by this developer incorporated only minor changes but required a full review process by the Planning Board. By dragging out the review process, protesters gradually lose interest and pressure increases on planning boards to make a decision.
Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission members have tried hard to get it right and they need a lot more residents to show up and say this plan needs to be rejected.
Starting this Monday, December 17, other proposals will be presented by “objectors” and then public comment will begin when objectors finish their presentations. This can happen as soon as Monday or on later meeting dates on January 14 and the 27th. When public comments are concluded, the Planning Board is expected to approve or modify this plan but it should be rejected to work on a great plan. Only you can impact this decision. See proposals below.
Meetings will be shown live on channel 34 but most visual illustrations are usually not visible on your TV and residents filling seats or speaking up impact decisions.
1.This current plan provides for nearly half required parking according to proven guidelines for this type of development (a reduction of 400 of required 859 spots). The developer also proposes a reduction in the size of each parking spot.
Providing parking is costly so developers attempt to justify the need for less. One claim is that half of parking spots for the 154 unit apartment building at corner of Grove and Glenridge Ave will be available for daytime use even though this building will attract NYC train commuters using the Bay St station. This shared parking concept likes to assume cars leave for the day and free the space for other cars. Obviously train commuters 2 blocks from the train will not remove cars during workdays.
Also pointed out is that holiday periods are the busiest shopping times and those periods can make or break a business. Many of those same apartment tenants will also stay home, again using the parking during those holiday times when their parking space is in high demand.
This developer’s parking expert also explained the use of valet parking in the Crane Park neighborhood and side street named Lackawanna Plaza to accommodate customers of medical offices, the grocery and a fast food store recently included in this plan. Existing businesses relying on street parking in that neighborhood have a lot to be concerned about. Planning Board members stated that “ it was outrageous” and “ Lackawanna Plaza would look like a used car lot”.
Since the planning board argued about this point, the parking expert quickly offered that they could valet cars all the way to the apartment building parking lot on the east side of Grove at Glenridge…."since it would be half empty during the day hours". Another suggestion is to set aside space in the supermarket lot for some valet parking within the west lot on Bloomfield Ave, consequently reducing the self parking spots for supermarket customers.
When management of the valet service was discussed it became apparent that there could be as few as one attendant working at times. In addition, valet attendants are under pressure to park and retrieve cars asap and sometimes for only short periods. This plan proposes to eliminate some parking meters on some Glenridge Ave street parking spots now used by post office customers but presumably to be used for valet services.
Local residents have already complained that Crosby’s Gastropub on Glenridge was filling residential street parking by valeting customer cars. It was also discussed that the town would have no easy recourse if this valet service is mismanaged or terminated in the future.
2.This developer bought a historic landmark in a historic district but his architect stated that he was never asked to design a plan respecting or showcasing the historic landmark. Instead the developer sought out and hired a historian and planner willing to state that the train stanchions are not historic or valuable in their opinion.
In contrast, in the 1980s the developer who redeveloped Lackawanna Plaza with a Pathmark Supermarket, worked with the renown architect, Richard Blinder (who also restored Grand Central Station ) to help design the Pathmark site using the train stanchions for the existing mall in front of the supermarket space.
3. This developer makes claims that the stanchions cannot be used inside supermarkets while a supermarket design expert says otherwise and that it would be " gorgeous". Other architects provided existing examples of train stations now used for markets. Architects stated “ Its normal to be required to work with restrictions of an existing site and to design accordingly.”
Approval of this plan would be a great disservice to town residents. Doing so, the planning board would ignore their own town’s master plan goals to respect and preserve the town’s historic character.
4. Critics say this plan makes Glenridge Ave more dangerous and is unsafe for pedestrians.
Architects and the architecture consultant for the planning board have proposed plans to provide for an attractive, convenient and safe area for pedestrians, cars and delivery trucks to return to again and again. Suggested designs providing for a safer shopping area have been ignored by this developer.
Lackawanna Plaza can and should be the crown jewel and a real actual gateway to our downtown, a meeting and gathering place… attractive, convenient and safe to walk or drive to. Instead, this plan proposes an oversized downtown supermarket with parking lot stretching deeper than a football field and big box highway stores. The developers Illustrations camouflage who it will really look.
What you can do.
Come Monday at 7:30 to the 205 Claremont Ave to see what can happen to your downtown. The Mondays of Dec 17 and then possibly January 14 and 28, the PB will hear from architects and other objectors who offer plans to use the historic assets and create a safer attractive site. Then the public can have their say. Check the town site on the planning board page for any last minute changes.
See detailed report and proposed options to beautify the site using train stanchions from the the Planning Board's architectural consultant here.
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Details of Redevelopment Area Proposals
Council Email addresses, Meeting Agendas and Minutes
HPC Meeting Agendas
Planning Board Agendas