PLANNING BOARD APPROVED LACK PLAZA PLAN WITHOUT SUBSTANTIATING NEED FOR PARKING VARIANCE AND STATION DEMOLITION.
A Deputy Director of Preservation at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and Montclair resident, Caroline Kane Levy says Lackawanna developer failed to satisfy the heavy burden of proof for the both a parking variance and demolition of a historic site and the Planning Board did not do its job in demanding proof. The developer’s variances are directly tied to the demolition of a historic structure important to the town and region and are asking for a 400 car parking variance in an already parking-starved downtown. Ms. Levy explains that:
1. A variance should be granted only if there is not "substantial detriment to the public good and will not substantially impair the intent and the purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance.
2. A developer seeking a variance must meet strict standards under the NJ Municipal Land Use Law based on hardship and therefore cannot self-create an undue hardship for a supermarket, such as eliminating existing the parking across Grove Street for a new residential development.
3. Historic preservation law, including Montclair’s ordinance requires that the developer has the burden to show that an important and vital historic building cannot be retained and reused.
Ms. Levy says the above are substantive reasons why the Planning Board’s decision was flawed but there are procedural reasons as well.
1. The applicant never revealed a tenant until the last possible minute and that a supermarket representative was not allowed to be questioned or to affirm the claims of the developer.
2. The Township Council voting ahead of the Planning Board by passing a Council resolution to urge the expedited approval by the board of this ill-conceived plan.
3. The aggressively prejudicial way Chairman Wynn led the meetings, opening each meeting with a statement that he expects the applicants to sue, refusing the Historic Preservation Commission's request to allow additional expert witnesses, and not allowing members of the public speak who did not live in Montclair which is not accounted for in the planning board bylaws.
4. Instead of doing research himself, the Planning Board’s attorney told the applicant to prepare a report on whether there may in fact be easements or deed restrictions dating from the 1980s federally funded adaptive re-use, such as retaining public access through the tunnel under Grove Street, therefore taking the word of the developer.
5. At the last possible minute, the entire program was revised, to include a much smaller supermarket with very different loading and parking requirements, and a vote was taken without any questioning or time for additional review by other agencies or interested parties.
6. The Historic Preservation Commission has been marginalized during this entire process.
If the supermarket fails, the valuable historic asset will be gone and what will be left is a very large development site zoned for 6 stories with recommendation to consider up to 8 stories in the master plan guidelines.
See Ms. Levy entire article here.
February 11, the Planning Board approved the Lackawanna Plaza plan allowing for the demolition of part of the train station stanchions for new parking spaces and a reduction of 400 parking spaces normally required for this type of plan. The planning board's own supermarket design consultant pointed out that this parking variance would not be needed if the supermarket was an appropriate size for this downtown location and no larger than 35000 square feet. This approved plan now provides for a 29000 square foot supermarket with the balance of the 47000 square foot Pathmark space left without a the developer providing a plan.
The Planning Board received pressure for months from various sources to make a decision because some local residents just wanted a supermarket. Some stated that a compromise had already been given by the developer when the number of apartment units was reduced from 349 to 154. Immediately prior to the planning board vote on February 11, Lidl supermarket was introduced as the intended market, a German chain and competitor of Aldi and Walmart. Its very difficult for anyone as well as board members to sift through the facts and comprehend the implications of any complex decision in a high pressure environment. We will all see what the implications of this decision over many years.
Any developer has a strategy laid out by a professional team to ultimately obtain the goals for his property. Part of this strategy is to initially ask for much more than he actually expects then use board fatigue and resident pressure as advantages. Lackawanna Plaza is now much more valuable property with a 400 parking variance and is zoned for 6 stories and with a recommendation to consider up to eight stories in the master plan for land use policy. Recently, a Lidl representative said that he did not want to answer press questions because a lease had still not been finalized.
See this article for thoughts from a professional in preservation.
First its the Lackawanna Station and now its historic homes.
Now is the time to make it very clear to officials that we value Montclair’s history and assets. Let's do something about the demolitions and knock downs of our older homes and historic properties. Your Township Council and Manager need to take immediate action.
The “No Knock Down” law used to be in force but was removed in 2012 under this current Council’s watch. A number of great older houses have been demolished since then. This protection needs to be reinstated. This law provides for a review process to help control arbitrary demolition of valued historic properties.
This week’s knockdown and loss of two 19th and early 20th century historic homes on Undercliff and Lloyd Roads is a disgrace. By not ensuring that the legal protections were kept in place to prevent these and past tear-downs, they are not doing their job for this historic town. Historic homes is one of our most important selling points when people visit and move here. It’s their job to preserve historic neighborhoods and those assets.
Montclair is here for residents, not developers. Make this happen. Stop the destruction of our town. Send a letter or email now.
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Tstafford@montclairnjusa.org
Last Monday's planning board meeting ended without time to start public comment regarding the developers proposed plan for Lackawanna Plaza proposal. Public comment will finally proceed this next Monday, January 28.
The final objector’s testimony at the last meeting was extensive and resulted in many subsequent questions from planning board members, the developer’s attorney and the public. The objector’s testimony suggested provided details of the 1980’s careful restoration of assets of the historic train station. Since federal funds for the 1980’s restoration were used it was questioned whether those assets could now be demolished legally.
Developers come with their proposal and a wealth of experience, financial resources, experts and tactics to eliminate opposition. Strategies are used to eliminate opposition, to frustrate and burden the planning board members volunteering their time as well as residents who are likely new to the process and have limited time, experience and resources. For example, no temporary food market has been allowed by the developer since 2015. The neighborhood is frustrated waiting for a source for groceries and this pressure helps the developer get what he wants approved which includes a parking variance for almost half the required parking.
In addition, when this current proposal was presented last spring, thedeveloper ignored the request by the planning board chair to work with the Historic Preservation Commission for a plan which could be approved. Since then only minor changes by the developer were proposed but required new reviews by the board.
In recent months while under oath and providing expert testimony for the developer, a consultant mentioned that he understood that there were several supermarkets interested in the site. However, the developer increases tension by claiming that there is now only one supermarket interested and others have dropped off the list. Thedeveloper also refuses to disclose any interested supermarketconsequently the planning board cannot verify the developers claims of what a supermarket requires. Should our planning board make decisions to demolish historic assets and massive parking variance based on this developers claims ?
Informed or insightful public comment can impact the planning board decision. Testimony is closed now so public comment is scheduled to start Monday, January 28, 7:30 at 205 Claremont Ave. We will live with the decision. Please plan on attending to show interest and speak if possible. **Check for last minute changes on the town site.
Open this Montclair Local article for information about the proposed plan and an alternative by Historic Preservation Commissioners.
***Please pass this to other residents, Like Us on Facebook. For more history of this project go to www.SaveMontclair.org to Notices page.
MONDAY NIGHT PUBLIC ATTENDANCE AND COMMENTS CAN HELP.
Developer uses scare tactics to manipulate residents to help him get his plan approved. **Please pass notice to others to show up Monday. Like Us on Facebook.
The planning board sympathizes with local residents in the food desert perpetuated by the developer and feels pressure to approve a plan which allows almost half the required parking for this over sized market, retail and office site and destroy parts of a valued historic landmark, based on unsubstantiated claims from this developer who says that this is what any supermarket wants.
In contrast a supermarket design expert explained that this is not necessarily the case. This expert said a smaller attractive market using the train station intact would draw more customers, have the required parking and be more aligned with grocer industry trends. There are supermarket companies who pride themselves in building within converted buildings to enhance the shopping experience.
The town has been held hostage by the developer since the Pathmark closed in 2015 and he did not allow any temporary market at the site. Local town Facebook sites such as Secret Montclair are used by this developer to manipulate the neighboring residents to help him get approval for his plan by stating " if you want a supermarket come to the January 14 meeting."
In reality, the town stipulates a supermarket be part of the development and according to the developer the project is years away. Efforts are best spent asking the Mayor and Counsel to insist that the developer finally allow a temporary food market and to propose a new and reasonable plan for our downtown.
Everyone wants a supermarket but more residents need to speak out for a development which enhances the downtown neighborhood and a market which will stay open in a fast changing grocery industry.
This Monday, January 14 at 7:30 in the town hall, the Planning Board is expected to hear final testimonies from professionals objecting to the developer's current plan and then have the public comment period before the Planning Board votes. During the last meeting professionals offered alternatives which provided a plan with safer and more accessible pedestrian access, dividing the parking and traffic flow and a offered an attractive alternative market using and not disturbing historic assets.
Planning board members take direction and ultimately vote based on legalities and zoning regulations as well as information from various sources including consulting professionals, town officials and developers and residents. Public comment is when residents can offer valuable insight with relevant professional knowledge or specific concerns about how the plan will affect them.
For more history and details of the Lackawanna Plaza proposal see further notices below on this page.
***Please pass on to others to come Monday and speak out. Like us on Facebook.
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.
***Please pass to other residents to join us on SaveMontclair.org. Like us on Facebook.
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.
***Please pass to other residents to join us on SaveMontclair.org. Like us on Facebook.
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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LACKAWANNA PLAZA DEVELPER CREATED FOOD VACUUM TO GET WHAT HE WANTS…and so far it’s working.
This week, our Historic Preservation Commission passed a resolution as another attempt to keep intact the historic Lackawanna Train Station. The HPC is working hard under legal constraints to pressure the Planning Board to insist that this developer sit down and work with town consultants to create a much better plan for the Plaza.
This developer has ignored a request by the Planning Board chair for months….”saying there is only one plan option for the site”. Public pressure for a supermarket and Council pressure on the PB to approve the developer’s plans quickly has put the goal of enhancing our historic downtown in jeopardy and this needs to stop.
Anyone pressuring the PB for a fast approval of this developer’s plan is undermining the review process and what is ultimately good for the town.
**Please pass to other residents. Join us to get direct emails. Like Us on Facebook.
The Planning Board’s consulting supermarket designer and several architects say “ there are multiple options”. The Planning Board hired a supermarket designer who said building a supermarket within the train sheds “would be gorgeous”.
The HPC members are residents who volunteer their time to help the town and they need our help. This week HPC architects presented a planning option which seeks to enhance the Plaza ‘s old train station area and to resolve concerns that the developer’s plan ignores.
This project is the only opportunity left to create an attractive and active Plaza area…safe and inviting for pedestrians but these goals have been put in jeopardy in recent months.
Planning Board members are the stewards for the town and responsible for protecting assets and what is highly valued…small town historic character.
1.The decision for a Lackawanna Plaza plan may set a strong precedence that a developer can ignore Planning Board requests and not respect the purview of our Historic Preservation Commission.
2. The decision may demonstrate if Montclair Planning Board members understand that developers who wish to benefit from Montclair tax payers and visitors by building in Montclair, need to fully respect the charm and character why Montclair is a valuable community.
3.This decision will determine if the Planning Board members condone and will enable a developer to buy historically designated property in a Montclair’s historic district and then justify their unnecessary destruction.
4. The decision may show if Planning Board members support Montclair’s policy goals and guidelines found in the Montclair Master Plan to protect our historic heritage for current and future generations.
Everyone needs to get back on track and not let this developer hold the town hostage for a much wanted supermarket. A food desert was created by not allowing any temporary grocer at the site and not agreeing to options that would preserve the historic landmark from the beginning.
**Please pass to other residents. Join us to get direct emails. Like Us on Facebook.
Members of this Planning Board as well as the Council have heard for years loud and clear what resident’s value. Our Council representatives are responsible to help get this done…not be manipulated by a developer and bend to his wishes again and again, at the town’s expense.
This is not the first time this developer has held the town hostage or tried to manipulate the decision-makers to get what he wanted. During late stage approvals for the hotel, he announced that he needed another story otherwise “there would be no hotel”. A ninth story was approved quickly.
Other plans for Lackawanna Plaza have been discussed for several years. In 2014 and 2015, town officials supported a plan for a new Municipal Center complex but the developer eventually decided against it. In 2017 the developer proposed a massive project which included 354 apartments that faced overwhelming resistance from residents all over town. After months of reviews the developer decided against that proposal for business reasons.
This current scheme was just presented in January and is the first reasonably sized plan for the site. Keep in mind that much of the review time for this current proposal has been consumed by the developer’s witnesses testimony attempting to justify demolition. Again, the developer has refused to work with town architects and experts for months to design a final plan that can be approved.
The developer’s current plan was initially applauded since it downsized to 154 apts. However, it was not initially clear that the majority of the historic train station sheds would be demolished. Without the sheds, there is no train station. The waiting room housing Pig and Prince will stand alone. Without the train station this plan leaves us with a large building and a “ sea of parking” in our downtown.
The developer’s current plan also camouflages that this parking lot would extend from Bloomfield Ave 370 feet or 10 feet longer than a football field. Our HPC architects point out that this parking lot will extend further than those in front of major stores on Route 46 and Route 10 such as Costco and Toy R Us. It’s completely inappropriate and unsightly for a downtown location. The photo with a football field overlay shows how far the parking lot would extend down Grove St from the Bloomfield Ave side.
The other photo with green strips representing green space in the overlay and illustrates the plan option offered by HPC architects which divides parking, traffic, and congestion by using two lots and two entrances. At the same time it creates a safer, more attractive pedestrian center with opportunities for green space between the local neighborhoods to invite walkability. This HPC plan also suggests an open air market look and feel both outside and inside by enclosing both sides of the store present large windows so pedestrians see into an active marketplace from the street.
To see an actual example of divided parking, visit Kings Supermarket at 650 Valley Rd in Upper Montclair which cuts congestion in half and makes a more attractive downtown store.
For more details about this HPC plan option see the Baristanet article here.
Our Mayor, Council and Planning Board need to work together to insist this developer work with town experts and architects to enhance this neighborhood. Celebrate our train station town center as a hub of activity as it was meant to be.
**Please pass to other residents. Join us to get direct emails. Like Us on Facebook.
What can you do? We have all heard that anyone who does nothing deserves what he gets. This is how democracy works.
1. Come to Monday night’s Planning Board meeting, Sept 24 and show a sign or speak out for planning board members to join the HPC’s fight to build a “gorgeous supermarket” under the train sheds.
2. Email the Mayor and Council to tell the developer to the work with our HPC and the PB architect to use the train sheds for the supermarket and make Lackawanna Plaza a hub of activity it was meant to be. His current plan should never be considered.
Robert Jackson: firstname.lastname@example.org
1st Ward Cllr. Hurlock: email@example.com
2nd Ward Cllr. Schlager: firstname.lastname@example.org
3rd Ward Cllr. Spiller: email@example.com
4th Ward Cllr. Baskerville: firstname.lastname@example.org
At-Large Robert J. Russo: email@example.com
At-Large Rich McMahon: firstname.lastname@example.org
Supermarket designer says using train sheds “ would be gorgeous”….time for this developer to do something great for Montclair’s downtown.
The Planning Board’s recent Lackawanna Plaza July 23 (next is August 6) hearing showed that it's clearly a lack of developer interest, creativity and design expertise with historic buildings that continues to delay bringing a supermarket back to this space. He has ignored our Planning Board chairman’s request to work with the Board's preservation architect and HPC experts to finalize a design that would be approved. This developer’s plan remains consistent….demolition.
Other local developers propose more appropriate initial designs for Montclair’s historic neighborhoods and assets so only details have to be addressed by boards and projects are approved smoothly. Instead, this developer continues to make claims about what won’t work and about excessive retrofit costs that were shown to be illogical when questioned. Any decision is still under review since the developer has other testimonies to present including a historian he sought out who is willing to discredit Montclair’s iconic 1913 Lackawanna station's historic designation -- including its listings on the local, state and national historical registries.
Questions from Planning Board members showed they were not blindly buying the developer’s statements and those of his representatives about what is possible. The PB hired their own supermarket design firm who testified about what can be done with the site and stated that building a supermarket under the sheds…” would be gorgeous”. He believed a smaller sized market would actually be more profitable and successful within this highly competitive supermarket area given rapidly changing food buying habits. This consultant also suggested the Planning Board hire their own market research analyst to determine the best size and type of market for Montclair's hybrid urban-suburban location.
Two supermarket industry consultants have now testified – one was the developer’s own location analyst (not a store designer). Both effectively agreed that an open store interior could be used to preserve the station’s original train shed metal stanchions. Further, that this unique design could become a magnet for wider area customer draw -- pulling them away from their current grocers – for an exceptional shopping experience here. With the right expertise and motivation, our downtown can an affordable grocer in an exciting and welcoming setting.
To be fair, it is not an easy project to do because there is a difference in elevations within the mall. Parking is always a problem to be dealt with for any Montclair development. Residents and boards were thrilled when this 3rd site plan proposed much smaller scale development and most historic station elements were preserved but it was not immediately clear that 2/3 of train sheds would not be.
This developer is also not known for quality construction or attractive development. His Sienna building has had unrepaired leaks in condos for over a decade preventing use of whole rooms; pieces of the new Valley & Bloom’s façade are falling to the street and apartment ceilings and walls there are reportedly already cracking.
He owns and is developing all larger properties in town: the coming 8 ½ story hotel; the 6 & 7 story Seymour Street project with several buildings as well as Lackawanna Plaza. The Seymour project also required the Town to virtually force the developer to ultimately create a design that worked with our local character. By building here, he is significantly benefiting from Montclair tax payers and our visitors by building in town. Its time to give back.
Developers promote projects with illustrations of green, walkable streetscapes, quiet lush gathering spaces, bike paths and welcoming “gateways” as selling points to gain public support.
… When actual plans are presented we too often only see oversized bulky buildings and attempts to justify too little parking.
Maybe its time to put their money where their mouth is in this town.
….maybe Montclair is due for a give back from this developer…a great supermarket built under the sheds and an attractive development to enhance our downtown by opening Toney’s Brook.
The Montclair Environmental Commission returned July 23 to once again explain the benefits of opening up Toney’s Brook running under this property to create some kind of an open green area near Bloomfield Ave. This water feature could be an actual green “gateway”.
Last points…preserving our historic nature is preserving economic value and why developers want to build here. Maintaining and creating open green space in town is a goal within the 2015 revised Master Plan approved by the Planning Board.
This is the only big chance to enhance the downtown. If you care enough to help and not just vent on social media, attend or communicate at planning meetings and with elected officials using email or during public comments at the Council Conference meetings.
Lack Plaza developer continues to ignore Planning Board, Discredits historic status to justify demolition.
This Monday, July 23 the developer's most recent proposal for Lackawanna Plaza will continue its review by the planning board in the town hall, 205 Claremont Ave at 7:30 PM.
The Lackawanna Plaza property owner and developer, although requested by the Planning Board to work with the PB architect and Historic Preservation Commission architects on a supermarket plan leaving most of the sheds intact , so far has refused to do so. A national supermarket design firm and several architects propose how it can be can be done. Architects also say its commonplace to be required to design projects within site stipulations such as these station shed stanchions. Past SaveMontclair emails have provided examples of this being done.
1.This meeting may demonstrate if Montclair Planning Board members expect developers who wish to benefit from Montclair tax payers and visitors by building in Montclair are required to respect why Montclair is a valuable community to do so.
2.This meeting may set a strong precedence whether a developer may ignore Planning Board requests as well as buy historically designated property in Montclair and then attempt to justify its demolition for ease of development.
3.A decision may show if planning board members support Montclair's policy guidelines in the Montclair Master Plan to protect our historic nature and heritage for current and future generations.
During this review the developer is expected to attempt to discredit our town's most valued iconic historic asset. Although local, state and national authorities have designated Lackawanna Station as a historic site, this developer sought out one historian willing to critique the legitimacy of past and current historian's reports and statements about the station and its elements.
The developer's historian asserts that the Lackawanna sheds are not the famous Bush sheds as previously noted in reports. BUT is this really the point??? Its Montclair's major historic landmark. This developer bought a historic landmark and property within a historic district.
In addition, our Planning Board's own preservation architect as well as other local architects and aspecialized supermarket design firm has provided proposals using the train sheds and examples of other markets designed using stanchions. However this developer claims no supermarket would want the sheds.
This is simply an attempt to justify demolition for ease of development.
This is the only major opportunity to enhance our downtown. We all want a successful supermarket and a few more weeks to get the right plan can give our downtown something much better. Its always the same, Montclair wants preservation and the right development...over and over. This is always the point.
Again its important to attend this meeting to show support for those planning board members trying to get the best for the town and to convince other PB members Montclair should have the design that enhances our downtown.
To review materials and reports on the town site for this meeting see here.
See Lackawanna train sheds illustrated below with supermarket design and other examples of current markets using train stanchions.
Details of Redevelopment Area Proposals
Council Email addresses, Meeting Agendas and Minutes
HPC Meeting Agendas
Planning Board Agendas