By LINDA MOSS
Facing community opposition to their proposal, the developers of Lackawanna Plaza have launched a website and Facebook page outlining their plans “to revitalize” the site, which includes a historic train station and nearly vacant shopping center.
The site “offers community members a new resource to learn more about the vision consistent with the objectives outlined in the Draft Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment Plan, which was prepared at the direction of Montclair Township’s Master Plan,” according to the press release.
The Facebook page aims “to keep residents informed of updates and ways to show support for the dynamic new vision,” the release said.
“The developers expect that area residents will visit the new project website to learn more and connect on Facebook to support the transformation of what currently exists as a barrier in the eastern end of Montclair Center into an attractive, inviting center of activity that facilitates the economic and social benefits of sustainable growth,” according to the press release.
The site says that the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment “will breathe new life into the Lackawanna Station shopping center and its adjoining parcels,” with “a new mix of uses, including residential and supermarket space to add vibrancy and connectivity to the area, while respecting the historic character of the original Lackawanna station terminal building.”
It also describes the proposal, which includes 350 residential units with a roughly 65,000-square-foot supermarket,” which will replace the Pathmark that closed in November 2015.
The press release on the new website was put out by Public Strategy Group Inc., a Boston-based public relations firm “specializing in issue advocacy and land use entitlement campaigns,” according to its website. The firm’s clients include Comcast Corp., The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, Publix and AvalonBay Communities Inc.
The redevelopment plan has met opposition from residents who fear it will dwarf the historic train station, now occupied by the Pig & Prince restaurant, at the site. Opponents of the proposal also claim it has too much bulk and residential density for that part of Bloomfield Avenue, and that it will create traffic congestion.
The Township Planning Board is holding a meeting on Monday on the first draft of the site’s redevelopment plan, but it has said that it will not permit public comment at that session. The Township Council has asked the board for its recommendations on the redevelopment plan, and the planning board — on the agenda for its Monday meeting — says that the council will be the forum for public comment.
“Please note that the discussion is limited to the Planning Board and there will be no public discussion of the plan,” the board’s June 26 agenda says. “Public comment will be provided at the public hearing which will be scheduled by the Township Council.”
The Lackawanna Plaza website has a form and letter message in support of the redevelopment that people can fill out, which will then be forwarded to Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson, as well as the council and planning board, according to the site.
“As a resident of Montclair Township, I urge your strong support for the Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment proposal,” the form says. “This proposal will enliven the eastern end of Montclair Center by creating a vibrant mix of new uses within a walk-able community to provide housing variety and a convenient, affordable supermarket that area residents need … I respectfully urge your strong support to help this high-quality redevelopment proposal move forward to enhance the community for years to come.”
The Lackawanna Plaza website notes that “over two years of planning meetings and community input have informed the evolution of the Draft Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment Plan, which recommends specific objectives to support revitalization of this area.”
According to the website, “This redevelopment enhances an underutilized property in a key location by fulfilling competing objectives of preserving important historic elements while introducing residential uses, two acre open space public plaza, pedestrian connectivity and a new supermarket to replace the vacant Pathmark supermarket. Most importantly, the plan synthesizes the township’s connection to its historic past and vibrancy with a new center of activity to ensure these elements resonate for generations to come.”