Boards seek best for Lackawanna Plaza.
On Monday, June 18, 7:30 at 205 Claremont Ave, the Planning Board has scheduled a special meeting, in part to review and determine if a successful supermarket requires demolition of historic train sheds. Demolishing a valued historic feature of Montclair should to done only when necessary for greater public good….the loss is permanent. Historic streets and landmarks are economic assets that attract new residents, businesses and visitors and are never replaceable. Historic Church Street is a destination and the most popular street. Come and speak to support our planning board and ask your representative to support due diligence for all planning. See it on TV34 if you cannot attend but communicate with your representative.
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The Lackawanna Plaza’s story since 2012.
The mandated planning process for reviewing development proposals is established to provide for a comprehensive process and time to consider all implications of the project and to obtain the most favorable results for the town. Short circuiting this process is a great disservice to the town. The Lackawanna Plaza development is the only major opportunity to improve that area, not to improve it... or worse. It’s our downtown and a complex project and due diligence is crucial. It’s not simply about a supermarket which is 4-5 years away according the developer’s schedule.
Since the Pathmark supermarket closed in 2012 in bankruptcy, there have been a lot of reasons why there is still no supermarket or no approved plan. First, the owner who is also the developer stated that he would not provide for any temporary market in the empty space because of insurance and other costs.
This current 2018 plan is the only plan of all three considered acceptable and widely supported by residents and boards. It also was proposed only this spring. Between 2013 and 2015, town officials proposed and sought plans for a new city center be developed at Lackawanna Plaza to relocate city hall, police dept and Board of Education into one complex. It also included apartments and parking deck. In preparation for large scale development, Lackawanna Plaza with other sites were designated Redevelopment Areas so development could be built outside the zoning size restrictions. This city center plan was met with resistance since it added extensive congestion to an already congested area. After 2 years of board meetings and required public visioning workshops, the developer announced that this city center complex did not work financially for this firm.
The second proposal was introduced last summer in 2017 with over sized development on both side of Grove Street including 350 apartments, offices, and supermarket and parking deck. In this case, the Council required the Planning Board to approve this new plan after only one review, not following the normal review process. This proposal was met intense opposition from residents and board members alike. Once again, the developer decided the project was not financially sound for the firm and this third plan was proposed within zoning this last January and reviews started only this spring.
Reviews for this current 2018 plan moved quickly since the project size was within zoning restrictions. Remaining details to review focus on whether or not a supermarket can be planned including the previously preserved historic train sheds. In the 1980s Pathmark development the train sheds were enclosed as part of the mall/ skylight atrium still there today.
Our board members should have the town's support. Conscientious board members prepare for meetings and spending extensive personal time reaching for well thought out decisions or seek independent expert opinions to weigh against opinions by those benefiting from the plan.
Planning Board members provide expertise in architecture, development, city planning, real estate law, municipal finance. Some board members may be recruited because they have a proven service record in town. Be thankful we have board members who care and for a process to do the best job for us.
Planning board members are a combination of one Council member, town employees required to serve because of their position and several residents recruited and approved by the Council because they offer relevant expertise or valuable experience for planning decisions. In recent years, new board members represent residents’ interests to control over sized, out of character development.
Historic Preservation Commission members are selected by mayors according to a recent NJ law. HPC members require relevant expertise in historic preservation and related experience. HPC members may offer expertise in areas such as preservation or reuse architecture, landmark preservation commission, historian, land use law or related experience. Again, HPC members provide a valuable service which benefits all of us.
Comprehensive review process is required for best plans.
Our boards are dealing with the same developer with a track record of poor construction and out of character design such as Valley and Bloom and the coming hotel on Bloomfield Ave. Sienna condo owners left rooms empty for years while litigating leaks they could not get repaired. Board members complained Valley and Bloom started using the same faulty construction.
The defined review process allows for due diligence with comprehensive reviews and public input at each step.
Montclair needs the best traffic flow plan with the added density, the most attractive development possible for our downtown and a successful supermarket. What is approved is permanent…congestion gridlocks on Bloomfield Ave or Grove St because traffic flow poorly planned, supermarket failure because deliveries can’t be made smoothly and safely or losing a historic asset which may be an attractive element of a supermarket.
Let diligent board members try to get the best they can for the town. Once the sheds are demolished they are gone forever. The 1980s developer used the train sheds to build the atrium mall. The sheds are part of the “most handsome suburban train station in the country” and stated when it was built. Train sheds in a suburban station are unique. Lackawanna Station received historic designation by local, state and national authorities.
Here is the Montclair Local article for more details.
“Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe... this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won't all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.”
— Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
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Details of Redevelopment Area Proposals
Council Email addresses, Meeting Agendas and Minutes
HPC Meeting Agendas
Planning Board Agendas