How does a new, expanded municipal complex for the Township of Montclair sound, with more parking and the tantalizing added benefit of reducing municipal debt without a tax hike?

That’s just what Mayor Robert Jackson has his sights on. Baristanet caught up with him this morning to ask about points he raised in a media briefing earlier this week. His preferred idea is to develop a new municipal complex on the parking lot now occupying the east side of Grove Street between Bloomfield and Glenridge Avenues, behind the TD Bank building across from Lackawanna Plaza.

The location is appealing for many reasons, one of which is that it would relocate the police station to an area of higher crime in the township.

“That land is on the top of my target list, but there are other possibilities too,” Jackson admitted, without naming them.

Both the Police Department and municipal offices would move into a new complex. The current police building he explained, is too small and overburdened for the demands of 21st century law enforcement, and its HVAC systems are not up to par.

The bigger issue however, is that the building’s land, at the corner of Valley and Bloomfield Avenues, “is probably the most valuable piece of real estate in town right now and for that to be off the (tax) rolls doesn’t make sense.” He cites the current Municipal Building on Claremont Avenue and North Fullerton, as the second most valuable piece of land in Montclair right now, and also not generating tax revenues.

“We’re losing millions a year in tax dollars and also there’s the pure value of those two pieces of land we haven’t tapped in to. There are other places in town we could be,” Jackson explained.

If development proceeds the way he envisions, the result would drive down the township’s current $220 million debt load.

Jackson talked of building a parking deck with a facility on top of or adjacent, involving the two target pieces of land with a current combined value of about $25 million; if accomplished through a lease, that would reduce the township’s debt servicing. “Right now we have $16 million in debt service and that’s going to cut one eighth of that (so) you have $2 million free that you can use for a number of things.”

He anticipates the project generating $2 to $3 million in a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deal, if the complex were privately owned and leased back to the township. He also expects commercial uses for the facility would generate additional revenue, and that Montclair could save money via shared services with a nearby community, such as sharing a court and/or jail cells with one or two other towns. The driver of the deal, he noted however, is the value of the land and the PILOT payments and the tax payments from the resulting development. Those funds could then be spent on maintaining and upgrading township streets, parks and other amenities.

The next step, Jackson said, is to convene the Facilities Task Force Committee and “get them to start looking at the logistics of it, see if it physically would work, talk about deal parameters, look at the fiscal and financial aspects. We’ve done this preliminarily, but we need a more refined, detailed look. Based on comments and conversations thus far, I have the sense that this is something all parties would like to see happen, and now we have to see if we actually can.”

In a Montclair Times article yesterday, the Montclair resident whose company owns the parking lot and Lackawanna Plaza, is quoted as being “open and receptive” to the proposal.

In addressing other issues, Jackson again dismissed the idea that the selection of an all-male Facilities Task Force was gender-biased, and at last Thursday’s meeting, he noted that membership on the committee stems from who asks to serve at the time; and compared it to the Board of Education, with a female superintendent and only one male member.

15 replies on “Montclair Mayor’s Vision for New Municipal Complex Could Reduce Tax Debt Too”

  1. We should get a shared services deal BEFORE we commit. Also, does anyone really think it’s a good idea to sell town property so we can turn around and rent a larger property?

  2. Wait. How can the current police station be “the most valuable piece of real estate in town right now,” when the car dealership and vast parking lot behind it have stood empty for years.

    Makes no sense.

    And I continue to be offended by the idea that the full Montclair Township Complex should be place in an “area of higher crime in the township”.

    Now IF Jackson has some tenant interested in the current police complex, he should say so. Otherwise, his claim of perceived value is just that: a claim, with no facts behind it.

  3. It should be everything the Livingston complex isn’t. The mound they built out there is a bloated, glitzy, classless pile of pomposity and waste… Montclair should instead look to progressive ideas regarding simple clean lines, minimal energy use and environmental stewardship. More tree hugging, less bling.

  4. Not sure how much it’s going to cost to build a complex but I absolutely LOVE the idea of having more police presence in that area (though, not the jail– hopefully we can use another town’s jail).

  5. I have no opinion on this one but at least you have to give him credit for creating a plan he envisions will help the town.

  6. Let’s see you gets the contracts to build the facility. REMEMBER all the favors this guy owes to the DEMOCRATIC politcal machine that got him elected.

  7. Again, the issue of parking here is critical. One would presume a revamped Lackawanna Plaza would attract more shoppers, but if a new municipal complex is built on its lot, where will everyone park, in addition to the parking needed for the municipal building??? I don’t quite see a multi-level garage “fitting in” with everything else that is 2-3 floors in that ‘hood.

  8. herb, a plan to help the town is not building a shrine to municipal “services.”

    There are other things that we need- traffic abatement, crime prevention (putting a “pop-up” police station, er “sub-station” in the areas with more crime is an answer), etc. are real changes that will benefit the community.

    But a “bloated, glitzy, classless pile of pomposity and waste” as Spiro rightfully KNOWS this will turn into, will not.

    However, IF the Mayor and his team have some tenants to occupy the current Valley/Bloomfield corner, I look forward to hearing– (suddenly that MSU idea of a dorm where the Volvo dealership was doesn’t sound as outrageous as some thought…)

    No good though, can come out of this idea. No. Good.

  9. With a PILOT, the developer agrees to an annual amount to be paid to the township. It is in lieu of “taxes”. Of the agreed upon PILOT amount, 95% goes to the municipality, 5% goes to the county and none to the schools. If the building being built doesn’t bring in more school aged children, in theory, it shouldn’t increase the costs to run the schools. The PILOT amount to be paid is usually part of the negotiations with the developer, but generally not lower than 90% of what property taxes would otherwise be without a PILOT agreement.

    Livingston is the only other town in Essex County that has a higher per capita debt than Montclair. It could be due to the muni palace that they built.

    I’m not sold on this being a good idea for all of the many reasons stated here and in the blogs on the Patch’s site. I look forward to seeing the analysis of expected revenues and costs.

  10. Finally. Some creative business thinking that could actually generate revenue for Montclair. AND..the Mayor and Council appointed smart bean counters to evaluate the deal and help structure it. If the proposal doesn’t work out, I’m sure we’ll hear why. But why nay say at this time. There’s a new business concept on the table, it’s being vetted by our neighbors who are financial experts and if the deal makes sense – great! If not, on to the next. That’s the way open government should work. Dare to succeed. Kudos to Mayor Jackson for intelligently attempting this effort.

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