Going down to South Park, gonna redevelop this time
New improved streetscape, say goodbye to diagonal parking
Going down to South Park, but we’ll miss the deadline
Getting shoppers on the street has to wait until September

South Park redevelopment project — approved back in April and scheduled for completion this summer — won’t even start until September, The Montclair Times reports. The delay means the project won’t be completed in time to be included in the reassessment. Did someone drop the ball?

Town mananger Marc Dashield cites issues with a culvert underneath the street as causing delays in the start of the project. John Reichman, chair of the Capital Finance Committee, who back in Feburary strongly urged the council to move on the project by early July, says the project should have been a priority and that those involved in the planning were aware of the culvert and underground river. Getting the project done in time for the reassessment was supposed to help pay for it, according to a Capital Finance Committee report, as it would “allow the cost of the [project] to be quickly recaptured through increased tax ratables from downtown properties.”

Reichman had also urged completion of the project in the summer to allow the township to capture a no interest loan of $488,000 from the state to finance to project, called NJ-DBIZ.

Meanwhile, if you’ve seen workers in the area, and thought the project had started, the work you saw was to improve the sewers.

43 replies on “South Park Streetscape Facelift Stymied”

  1. Perhaps B-net should add a number to the forthcoming changes in dates, design, and cost.

    This, then is Park Street ReDEV Issue #1!!

    Stay tuned for #2 to surface sometime in late August, (me thinks a design issue will next up).

    And in 5 years, we’ll have the most expensive street promenade in NJ.

    (Is there where I admit, despite supporting the plan, that this is going to be a disaster?)

  2. Sounds like Town mananger Marc Dashield cost the town half a million. But don’t worry I doubt accountability matters very much and what is half a mil to an overtaxed town closing libraries and paying for sewers out of pocket….

  3. are we to believe that this project wont come in at LEAST a million dollars over budget? scrap it!

  4. on a lighter note, the township now qualifies for a high interest loan of $550,000 from the state to finance to project, called NJ-DBAG.

  5. Despite what has been said and despite what is stated in the township website (in an item with the title “South Park Street Project –
    Township to Hold Open House: South Park Street Project Designs”), there was NO public design competition held regarding the “awarding” of this project.

  6. Believe it or not this was a simple project.

    This is not about rebuilding the Twin Towers. It is, or should be, a simple streetscape project.

    The project was conceived by an Architectural firm — Smith-Maran.

    Rather than let his firm do the entire project, which they were superbly qualified to do, it “was decided” to have Smith Maran do “design” and the actual engineering, drawings, bidding, etc would be handled by Montclair’s own Engineering Department.

    And our own Engineering Department decided to subcontract out some of the engineering drawings, which then had to go back to the Architect for review, etc.

    This has resulted in unfortunate delays.

    Compounding this situation is the situation of the below surface “culvert” which has been the “elephant in the room” for at least, oh, a good portion of the 120 years that it has been there.

    It’s condition could have, and should have, been evaluated any time in the past DECADE.

    It has only been evaluated in the last MONTH.

    And to add further complexity, there is the issue of long standing flooding in the area, and people desire to use this opportunity to evaluate potential solutions.

    Things like the culvert, and flooding, are really not part of the South Park Pedestrian Mall “project.” They are infrastructure which should have been addressed years and years ago. It is only now we are finally, and frankly, addressing them.

    Readers should keep in mind that two of the reasons for completing this project ASAP are 1) the necessity of getting it in for the reassessment, October 1, and 2) the need to have the project COMPLETED before the Holiday Shopping season!!

    As to frankgg’s accusations, these should be addressed in another thread, not here. We are trying to solve THIS problem.

  7. I am stating fact, not “making accusations”, Mr. Africk. There was no design competition. Thats a fact.

    Of course it is necessary to fix the infrastructure, but the design project is unnecessary. This is my opinion.

  8. Un-Answered Question:

    1. Will Montclair lose the NJ-DBIZ interest free loan if the projects completion is not within the terms of the loan agreement?

    If so what was stipulated in the loan agreement pertaining to what interest rate would be applied.

    2. Who surveyed the site, and was it correctly examined before moving forward with the project?

    This project is beginning to look like the Parking Lot Fiasco of 2010 that almost bankrupted some business in Upper Montclair because of “unexpected” problems underneath the parking lot surface.(*oh wait maybe the cheese shop did go out of business)

  9. The South Park Street culvert contains a pretty substantial piece of Toney’s Brook that comes from the Orange Road area and then into a pond that is around where the West Bloomfield Cemetery was (now the Sienna Building site) There is also a stream flowing into it from under Hillside Avenue, that comes from the former Montclair Springs site, on South Mountain Avenue. Wow, that’s a lot of water! The South Park waters then flow into Toney’s Brook where the YMCA is. (all in underground culverts) These underground bodiwaterways are on all the maps from 1857 up till the 1890s. Probably, another problematic factor is that they rest on beds of stone and not just earth so if the culverts back up….that’s a large volume of underground water that isn’t going anywhere. Apparently South Park Street would make a great marina!

  10. Now let me know if I have this straight. We lost the $488k no-interest loan. And since the project won’t be completed in time for the reassessment, there’s no way of making the investment back in the medium term future. Is that right? If so, then what to do next is a no-brainer: cancel it.

  11. Hey Frankgg

    I didn’t know the Sienna had been West Bloomfield Cemetery. Where did all the bodies go?

  12. The loan is not in jeopardy.

    Thanks, Carey, it’s good to know we can still borrow the money for something we can’t pay for.

    Cancel it.

  13. Great info, Frank!

    The water under Montclair is problem-some.

    Several blocks away from me, on Valley Road by Brookfield, there is a train trestle under which a flood occurs always in high rains. Neighboring backyards are often under water too. This seems to be an effect of the stream that runs from Anderson Park, into Edgemont.

    The problem areas in Montclair are extensive.

    My own property has a very high water table, and it has changed over the years. There are no places where I can dig down 20″ and not hit water on a day like today, i.e. strong rains in the past week.

    Across the street from me, on central, a RIVER practically flows in heavy rains.

    These water problems, including the problems on South Park, need experts to study them. The problems on Valley aren’t going to be fixed by a landscaper or our own engineering department. We need substantial expertise.

  14. Hi Pat! The bodies were moved to Rosedale Cemetery……

    From Dr. Watkins REMINISCENCES OF MONTCLAIR 1929 pg 13.

    “In 1876 and 1877 the old graveyard, was all dug up and the bodies were moved to Rosedale Cemetery. There was one case of old Mr. Munn who had been buried for many years and upon digging up his grave, it is said that his body was found to be petrified with the exception of one leg and the lower jaw, which was missing. It said that they stood him upon one foot and that a great many people went to see him. One of his descendents told me that he saw him and that there was no fake about it.”

    (this book has fascinating stories written by Dr. Watkins, an old man who was the town dentist. He talks about Mr. Munn, the tavern owner in another essay, saying that Mr. Munn was often found about town inebriated.)

  15. Wall, et. al.,

    If you’re going to look at town finances you need to look at the big picture. $750K for South Park? Why don’t you take a look into the entire capital budget for 2011 which exceeds $12MM, albeit that the BOE will be $9MM of this.

    There are issues galore to study, believe me.

  16. Whenever somebody tells me to look at the big picture, Cary, I put my hand on my wallet just to make sure it’s still there. The entire economic justification for this project has evaporated because of our own ineptitude.

    Forget it. Cancel it. We screwed the pooch. Let’s at least try to pinch some pennies until we can make some headway on our budget crisis.

  17. Roo,

    “Let’s at least try to pinch some pennies until we can make some headway on our budget crisis.”

    I can almost guarantee that the next council to come in June 1, 2012 will have to finish and vote on the 2012 budget. This council is inept. Cant wait til November to see if any of this current group will run again. What a record to run huh!

  18. Wall,

    I’m not asking you to look at the big picture. I am asking you to help “raise consciousness” on all this other financial stuff that’s going on!

    South Park is simple.

    The loan is secure. In fact, Montclair has already received a portion of it.

    What I’m trying to do is convince people to execute on the project in a fashion so that 1) the project is completed before Holiday shopping season begins and 2) is COMPLETE before October 1 so that it can be included in the reassessment.

    I’m also trying to make sure of some other things, i.e. that it doesn’t make the water situation in the neighborhood worse, and that DESIGN is paramount. It’s supposed to “look nice.”

  19. Raise consciousness! Are you kidding? We are all too conscious. What we need is less consciousness. I for one would like to be anesthetized, now!

  20. But there are so many of us who do not want this project to be built at this time and do not want the $ spent on it except for the necessary repairs to the culverts and infrastructures (these costs will be high enough) The design project’s realization would be best handled once there is a more extensive concept in place to develop Montclair Center…the situation should evolve first as well as a design competition open to all local professionals and with a public bidding process.

  21. In this economic climate I see no justification for this project.

    My dear mother once told me, “Money does grow on trees”. Nope, not even in South Park!

  22. In a perfect world with huge budgets, no ownership issues and where with the wave of a magic urbanistic wand you could fix everything doesn’t work with Montclair Center…what would I do?
    In steps –
    1) Remove the historic limestone/granite /terracotta façade of the Wedgwood building.
    2) Demolish the Wedgewood building to transform South Park Street into a true and usable “plaza”.
    3) Build a huge municipal parking facility building on the site of the parking lot behind the Wedgewood Building site and put the historic Wedgewood façade on it, facing the plaza. THAT would be and beautiful space with some usefulness and maintain some historic Montclair atmosphere!
    4) Remove the building on the south east corner of the Bloomfield Avenue and South Park (its about as pretty and useful as a missing tooth) and replace it with a very state of the art tall glass spike building, like the new ones in Lower Manhattan…to give Montclair Center some NYC flavor. This building could also have a bridge element that crosses the busy Bloomfield Avenue intersection and tie Montclair Center back together….its now split by the fast busy ski slope of Bloomfield Avenue.
    5) I would have not built the Sienna Building in that volumetric configuration, but instead left the Hahnes building base for historic continuity, but add a taller technological building growing out of it, but even better – push the whole building package back, to reveal le the magnificent masterpiece Tiffany Stained Glass window of Christ Church….to enhance the glamour and allure of Monclair Center. (the way the Hinck building does)
    6) I would not have built the Crescent Parking Deck (my parking deck, like I state above, would be a huge municipal parking facility building on the site of the parking lot behind the Wedgewood Building site) Instead of the Crescent Parking Deck, a huge community plaza (with underground parking, for fairgrounds, concerts, outdoor cinema. This would introduce the Town Green concept from the 1919 Nolan Plan for Montclair. The Nolan Plan called for a Montclair Center Green, on the site of the Sienna Building. This site, has a large natural brook and even a pond – as we WELL know because that what being contained by the culverts.
    7) Be mindful to not remove parking spaces or traffic from the streets. (when I worked in Aldo Rossi’s Studio in Milan….this was our crusade for the re development of the center of Milan) “On the street parking spaces” and car traffic bring more “LIFE” to the buildings and shops. Its also important to NOT remove buildings from the streetscape…(like the car dealerships and gas stations did)…this creates ubanistic “missing teeth” from a town center.

  23. What are the financial consequences of missing the assessment, as seems highly likely? Does that mean that the property owners get a ten year gift of an improved street-scape, and therefore improved rental or sales revenue, at no cost to themselves?

    I was sceptical that increased assessments would balance out the costs of the project or the benefits to the property owners even before, and now it seems a sure thing that we taxpayers are simply giving money to the owners of those few properties that are going to benefit.

    This wouldn’t be a problem if the property owners had shared the investment. But perhaps the property owners know something that we don’t, and wouldn’t have made the investment in the first place.


  24. I was not in favor of this project from the onset. I felt that the project had many merits, but not enough to overcome the urgent need to curtail inappropriate municipal spending. I held my tongue while reading the “best case” scenario justification (the only real scenario considered) for a capital project that would pay for itself. I didn’t speak out that the 22 week timeline, including 8 weeks from first shovel to ribbon cutting, was unrealistic.
    It has bothered me since April that I let so much pass without challenging any of it. I read the Capital Report closely, listened to the discussions, read the news articles. What was being said and what was not being said. Who was doing the talking and who wasn’t. What expert corroboration was there or not there.

    I believe the only acceptable options that make financial sense are either to complete the project by October 1st as planed or to cancel the project. The increased assessed property value is, and always has been, the key to the financial justification. I am fairly educated on the project details and requirements. I believe the numbers to justify the payback are now invalid. There are still the unrealized costs of design changes and cost overruns. Furthermore, the project can be done with a greater payback, under multiple macro/micro economic scenarios, in 3-5 years.

    I was wrong this Spring, but this is a second chance for me, the Capital Finance Committee, the OBAC, the Tax Assessor, the Engineer, the new CFO, the CEO… and, most importantly, the Council. There has been much discussion on the limited powers of our current Council system. In this issue, the Council has all the power and ability – and another chance – it needs to ensure that this beautification project is finished as originally promised or shelved until better circumstances can revive it.

  25. Thank you comm. Rubacky for expressing your valuable points of view. I always find that you are fair and that you have what’s best for Montclair in your heart.

  26. frankgg, your idea about the Wedgewood demo/rebuild as tarted up garage – were you serious? I hope not.
    1. It would kill off street life on that side of the plaza, except for those who enjoy a good stroll along a fine assortment of bumpers and grilles.
    2. Didn’t they just restore that facade, and you now want to disassemble it?
    3. Besides, you’d have to evict the existing tenants, and who would foot the bill to buy out the leases? The taxpayers? Who would buy the building from the present owner? The taxpayers.
    4. And you’ve just reduced our ratables – the building pays taxes now, no? Will the garage? Not likely.
    4. Anyway, reducing that building to a party mask facade in front of a bunch of SUV’s does the overall building little justice. There’s also the interior space at Urban Outfitters on the upper level is really interesting.

  27. Hi Spiro T. Q…(Happy 4th!!)…please don’t forget that I began by saying….”In a perfect world with huge budgets, no ownership issues and where with the wave of a magic urbanistic wand”… Also, the concept would present itself better in a readable site plan because its not easy to do project presentation within the Baristanet comment box!! You’re right about the street life at that side of the plaza….but the ground floor of the “tarted up” parking garage structure could be destined to “tarted up” businesses serving the plaza space, with a Piazza Navona-ish feel….with lots of cafe tables. South Park Street with the parking and traffic would remain as is…but could be closed off and the space adjoined to the plaza for special community events.
    Of course my concepts call for radical modifications that would be extremely difficult to implement….but we can dream, can’t we? I spent years going to meetings about the Hahnes/Sienna project…but the township IGNORED any public input…they just steamrolled ahead…add a few floors?…”oh yes…it will make a better building!” …and the outcome is perfectly obtuse in my opinion. So frustrating!
    You’re right about the interesting interior of the Wedgwood Building…but there is the BIGGER problem of getting Montclair Center to work successfully. Its dysfunctional, not desirable and seems to be getting worse and worse.

  28. yes, frankgg, we can dream ! And many of us do remember your commendable but sadly unheeded activism back before the Siena replaced Hahne’s.

    If I had a choice, I’d demolish half the downtown and restore it back to old growth forest, streams, meadows, etc. It would certainly bring a breath of fresh air to the heart of our town.

    ….and happy 4th to you too.

  29. Thank you Spiro.T.Q….I LOVE your dream….maybe someday! The only instance when my volunteering for the Township was envoked or accepted was when Mayor Russo removed his appointee (Mrs. Michaelson) from the final decision on the Marlboro Inn demolition and had me fill her spot. Comm. Wynn’s and my vote were the only votes in opposition. I would gladly see any of the elected officials who voted in favor of Crisco Court, The Sienna, or the BRUTAL demolition of the Washington St. thanked for their time, DISMISSED and NEVER again be allowed to serve on a township committee.

  30. Cancel this project. Put it on the next ballot. Let the voters of Montclair have their say.

  31. “Streams”? When I read of the underground waterways in the area, I found myself wondering if we could bring those aboveground to some advantage. Perhaps Church Street becomes a pair of walkways surrounding a central brook?

    But I’m no “city planner”, so I’ve no idea of the problems that would arise. I imagine that it could end up no cleaner than the other brooks and creeks running through down, which would just be sad.


  32. What a pretty idea to bring to light some of the waterways….Hillside Ave would be a big cascade from South Mountain down…Porter Park would have an ice-skating pond and so would The Crescent…Church street could begin with a waterfall and bridge crossing for South Park…because of the slope and velocity there would be much of an insect problem…I would imagine…

  33. …and I intended to say…”Washington St YMCA”..above (Time to get a laptop with a more legible keyboard!)

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