Rebuilding work at the Upper Montclair train station on Bellevue Ave, which was damaged in a fire in 2006, is set to be done by mid-February, First Ward Councilman Rich Murnick told Baristanet.
“We are really excited that they received their TCO (temporary certificate of occupancy) recently that allows them to open the portion of the station that’s completed – the restrooms and the covered waiting area for commuters,” Murnick said.
Ralph Nuzzo, who with his brother Charles has been building and developing the site, told Baristanet, “Basically, it’s all done, the certificate of occupancy has been received, the restrooms and waiting area are open, the fencing has been taken down and we expect to open the restaurant (to be called Montclair Station) during the week of Valentine’s,” in mid-February.
Which is a relief, as rebuilding of the site, watched with interest by residents and commuters alike, has been delayed by a range of factors.
Said Murnick, the developers, who hold a long-term lease for the site, “will operate the bar, the restaurant and train station. There have been delays due to turbulent times in the economy and factors we couldn’t control.”
“It’s taken more time than we ever anticipated, and the economy hasn’t helped,” said Nuzzo. “There have been many levels of bureaucracy to navigate, including the town, the NJ Historic Society, and all plans needed the approval of the Historic Society, the NJT and to conform with the local town code and safety regulations due to the proximity to the electrified railroad.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the doors to the waiting room and restroom areas were locked, possibly by workers on their lunch break, Nuzzo said. The restaurant area showed evidence of ongoing work; the fans were rotating in the light, airy room, and table tops and other wooden panels were arranged on the floor as if waiting to be put together. Outside, there was still a length of tarpaulin over the metal railings outside the NJT-owned station originally built in 1892, near the benches on the platform.
The 100-capacity restaurant will include a bar, serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and be open from 6 am to serve early commuters, Nuzzo said. It will have an open kitchen, with the culinary activity visible to diners. About 20 to 25 students of MSU and a host of skilled chefs will be hired to staff it.
It “will serve a variety of breakfast options, and commuters could grab a coffee and take away a bite, or sit down and pick something interesting off the menu,” Nuzzo added.
The building has kept most of its original features, and, though a lot of it was fire damaged, the Nuzzos have kept restoration true to its historic qualities in terms of colors, materials, choice of windows and roof.
Indeed, the river rock adorning the base of the station’s exterior is the original rock, restored, Nuzzo said. The porte cochere, or portico, through which a horse and carriage could pass when the station was first built, was refurbished to its former glory and is now the main entrance to the building.
With the restaurant and waiting room appearing ready for public use, some commuters were eager for information.
“It would be very nice to see a notice telling us what is available,” said Randy Tyndall, who commutes daily to Hoboken from the station. “It (the station) looks about 95% finished, but it’s not commuter-friendly and I haven’t seen any commuters entering the building.”