Architect Ira Smith presenting status of redevelopment areas of Montclair.
Architect Ira Smith presenting status of redevelopment areas of Montclair.

Updates to the latest draft of Montclair’s Gateway Phase 2 Redevelopment Plan were presented to the public at Monday evening’s workshop Planning Board meeting.

Gateway 2 comprises a number of properties at the intersection of Valley Road and Bloomfield Avenue, which have been declared areas in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation by the Township Council. Monday evening’s discussion focused on the area on the northeast corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Valley Road, which encompasses part of Portland Place. The plan currently includes townhouses on the south side of Portland Place, with a parking deck and a 60,000 square foot self-storage facility behind them. The current Police Department Building on the corner of Valley Road would be retrofitted and be converted into mixed-use retail and residential use.

Montclair Planning Director Janice Talley opened the meeting by explaining that the Board’s subcommittee had met with representatives from Portland Place since the previous workshop held on July 27th, and they had made changes to address some of their concerns, as well as other concerns raised at the July meeting.

Traffic and Parking

Gerard Giosa of Level G Associates, the township’s traffic expert, opened the meeting with a brief presentation regarding the expected traffic that would be generated by the potential redevelopment in this area. He said that there would be six dwellings on Portland Place, 26 residential units in the police building, 30,000 square feet of office space in the Leach Building on Bloomfield Avenue, 10,000 square feet of retail, as well as the 60,000 square foot storage facility. Primary vehicular entrance and exits would be on Valley Road. The self-storage facility, he stated, would generate eight trips in the peak morning hours and 16 in the peak afternoon hours. All other uses would generate 51 cars in the peak morning hours and 67 in the peak afternoon hours. Most of the traffic generated, Giosa said, would be on Valley Road, with only a small percentage on Portland Place, which would remain a one-way street.

There would be one-way ingress into the parking garage from Portland Place and one-way egress onto Valley Road, to minimize traffic on Portland Place. A total of 18 parking spaces in the parking garage would be set aside for residents of Portland Place.

The parking deck would have up to 190 spaces and would include spaces at grade, and then two more floors above that, for a total of 20-22 feet in height. He said the deck would be screened by the town homes on Portland Place.

Peak parking hours would be on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., mostly generated by the office use in the Leach Building, resulting in about 163 cars in the garage during these hours. By design, Giosa said, because office is the most intensive use, these cars would vacate after office hours and will not be there on weekends, leaving 80+ spaces open to serve the neighborhood in the off hours and weekends.

Giosa said that when the application to build the project comes before the Planning Board, the applicant’s traffic expert would go into more detail on parking and trip generation.

Architectural Aspects of Redevelopment Plan

Giosa was followed by the Board’s design consultant, architect Ira Smith, who began his presentation by summarizing the many redevelopment projects going on in town. He said Montclair has a downtown corridor of over a mile, rising toward First Mountain to the west. He briefly summarized the other redevelopment areas before moving on to Portland Place. Each place will have its own identity, he explained.

For instance, the Bay Street Station area will be transit-oriented due to its convenience to the train station and bus stops. At Lackawanna Plaza, Pathmark has a 30-year lease, and although it will be sold as part of the A&P bankruptcy, it will be taken over by another grocery chain and possibly rebuilt/relocated. TD Bank has said they are willing to relocate elsewhere on the site, which will open an opportunity to create a hidden parking deck, a new Town Hall complex, and housing, all built around the historic train station.

The Seymour Street area, he said, includes the Wellmont, the Social Security building, STS, and municipal parking. The area is slated to become a performing arts center built around the Wellmont theater. The owner of that building is restoring its plaster ceilings and positioning it as an anchor for various performing arts. It will include outdoor space and will support neighboring restaurants and retail stores before and after performances, Smith said.

The Gateway development at Orange Street, including the Valley and Bloom project, the planned hotel and the Montclair Art Museum nearby, all combine to create a regional draw to the area, “enlarging our welcome mat.” The Phase 2 Gateway project will “create a compelling crossroads” at this intersection and become a destination, he said.

Priorities include keeping the “sky exposure plane” intact to ensure light and air reach the north side of Portland Place after the townhouses, parking deck and mini-storage building are built. In order to do this, the townhouses will be required to imitate the size and scale of the residences on the north side of the street. Then, set back, would be the three-story parking deck and then the self-storage building. As a result of the two setbacks, the taller buildings will not be visible from the right-of-way on Portland Place.

Smith said the townhouses would incorporate many of the architectural elements of the homes on Portland Place to ensure they blend with the existing residential area. He showed pictures of examples of the type of architecture that would fit in. He said it would be required to be in a vernacular architectural style, and would “mix and match” to create variety.

There will be a publicly accessible green roof on top of the parking deck and a 4000 square foot community room to accommodate seniors in the area. Other green space will be provided on the corners of Valley Road and Bloomfield Avenue and on the corner of Valley Road and Portland Place.

Smith said the Leach Building, which faces Bloomfield Avenue, is somewhat of an anomaly as it is taller than surrounding buildings and has no windows on the east and west sides. Renovation and reuse of the building would need to be done “surgically,” keeping the historic elements such as the cornice, the “Leach Building” badge, and the street-level facade, while renovating other parts of the building.

He also discussed a possible 2-story residential addition that could be added to the existing historic Police Station building, citing the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for additions. He said that it was not recommended to copy the existing architecture but instead to make the addition clearly different from the historic section of a building. He showed examples from Europe and elsewhere, where modern additions were added atop historic buildings, many set back or in some other way made unobtrusive.

Janice Talley brought up concerns the public had raised about the Delta gas station, which falls in the redevelopment area. Residents wanted the station to remain, she said. Talley said the zoning would be revised to make the gas station as a conditional use, enabling the Board to address aesthetic concerns such as landscaping and parking locations.

Affordable Housing

After a short break, Harold Simon of Montclair’s Housing Commission’s Inclusionary Zoning Subcommittee spoke about affordable housing in Montclair. He said they were asked at the July 27th meeting to come to the August 24th meeting with ideas on how to prioritize Montclair residents for the Low-Moderate Income (LMI) housing produced through inclusionary zoning. He went over the history of the Mt. Laurel Doctrine and the creation of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), as it relates to Montclair’s situation. He also emphasized that including an affordable component in developments does not cost the town more money, since tenants pay rent, which goes toward the landlord’s taxes. In addition, he said, households living in housing set aside to be affordable do not disproportionately add children to the school system.

Comparing Montclair’s 20% affordable housing set-aside for LMI households to neighboring towns such as Bloomfield is not appropriate, Simon stated, because Bloomfield is a “Qualifying Urban Aid Community” and as such is exempt from this type of allocation as it already has a high percentage of affordable housing. He said Bloomfield also builds tax credit projects, such as the downtown 82-unit 55+ apartment building currently under construction, which is 100% affordable. He said instead that Montclair should be compared to towns such as Princeton or Montville, which do have set-asides of 20% and 21.5%, respectively. “Let’s not compare ourselves to towns that don’t look at all like us,” he said.

Janice Talley stated that in redevelopment areas, they are able to craft these plans in order to get additional items from the developer. If the affordable housing component is reduced, she said, “then it gives us the opportunity to ask for other things in return.” Simon countered by urging the Board not to negotiate down the 20% affordable housing component within the redevelopment area, as this aspect should be equally important as other aspects of the plan. He suggested offering the developer other incentives, such as an expedited permit process, rather than a lower percentage of affordable housing units.

Public Comment

Members of the public then spoke and asked questions for well over an hour. The first speaker questioned whether a senior community center was really needed in the Portland Place complex, given that seniors in Montclair already struggle with getting to and from numerous other small centers and do not currently have a large central location to meet.

Others questioned the addition of two more stories of residential space on top of the historic Police Station building. Joann Cornolia, speaking on behalf of Historic Preservation Commission member Kathleen Bennett, who was on vacation, said there were concerns with the addition adding more bulk and height to the building rather than keeping its existing form. Later on, another speaker pointed out that the Police Station was a contributing building in the historic district, and stated his concerns about adding an addition to the building as well.

There were also objections to the inclusion of a self-storage building in the plan. Janice Talley explained it was the developer’s idea to utilize the interior space of the block in this way. She later explained that even though they are creating a plan for the development, since a developer already owns some of the affected properties, the Board and Planning Department need to work with the developer during the planning stages.

The Gateway 2 redevelopment plan will be discussed again at the next workshop meeting on September 28, 2015.



42 replies on “Latest Update on Gateway Phase 2 Redevelopment Shared at Montclair Planning Board Meeting”

  1. Valley Road and Bloomfield Avenue isn’t bad

    Would love if the town focused on Bloomfield Ave between Elm/Groove and Maple/Pine

  2. I was at the meeting again and there are some highlight and some low light to this entire Phase 2 piece of redevelopment.


    1) Ira Smith’s detailed animated “fly through” tour of Montclair was awesome and provided solid context for the placement and rationale behind the development of kept key parcels and development nodes around town. I think with all of the text and verbal explanations that usually accompany these meetings and discussions, his interactive visual was much needed and served a valuable purpose. His presentation was a reminder of just how much potential our town has if we do things well. It could be off the charts good. I recommend that people give it a look on channel 34 which archives video of the meetings.

    2) The phase II plan does activate the area by incorporating residential, commercial and office uses which is a current trend that is bringing more people into the downtown. I am interested in seeing how having 30,000 feet of office space on the street level of Valley and Bloom will help generate vibrance and foot traffic for the area. For too long we had mixed use that was all dedicated to commercial/restaurants on the ground level with residential on top. The problem with that is that when the residents vacate the area for their jobs during the day it creates a vacuum between 9-5 which causes local retail that is open during those hours to struggle. We need more of a 24 hour foot traffic plan. Creating office space and encouraging larger companies to open in the downtown will accomplish this.

    2. The retrofitting of the Leech building with large glass windows where now there is only 80 feet of stark blank brick will make for a much nicer look.

    The Lowlights

    1. If this plan goes is adopted I feel the planning board and residents of this town (who will mostly find out only after it is built because not many people care to involve themselves in the planning process) will long regret the day we sacrificed in incredibly important block for self storage. It cannot be said enough how sad this is. Putting aside all the wastefulness and environmental damage caused by the consumer culture that enables storage facilities to exist, there sadly is a need for places to put all the antiquated stuff that doesn’t fit into our homes. I have never, ever heard an proposal in any town that wants to put storage units in the heart of their downtown. There is a reason why these structures are found on the margins of society, usually along 4-6 lanes highways alongside complimenting nicely the soulessness of strip-mall heaven. They are meant to exist where people don’t care about aesthetics or vibrance or foot traffic or human scale of a sense of place. The way in which they are built, and what they are built out of is a testament to this lack of care. Soulesss, windowless, aluminum, dead spaces. I am not buying the main argument being put forth by the board that the reason for the storage is because “of the highly irregular shape of the block.” What a load of you know what. It’s called a trapezoid and intersections in this shape exist in every downtown in the world where a diagonal street interrupts a grid pattern. Somehow those towns and their planners found better uses for those shapes than 60,000 feet of people’s unwanted junk.

    2. The 60,000 sq ft brings me to my next point. That is remarkable amount of space. That is more than the retail AND office components of Valley and Bloom combined! Ironically, and pathetically, it is also double the amount of the 30,000 feet being retrofitted in the Leech Building, which by the way was built AS A STORAGE UNIT!. You can’t make this stuff up. We are spending millions of dollars to retrofit a storage building (which by the way is complete obsolete and vacant for a reason…its in a bad place and structure for storage) as we simultaneously add 60,000 sq feet of new storage space right behind it? Just wow. You can tell the board is handcuffed by the developer here as the try and justify this remarkably poor use but there cannot be anyone up there who believes this is the best use for the revitalization of a prime downtown block. This component of the plan will fail magnificently.

  3. Parkour – while your general sentiments and a number of points seem “spot-on target”, me thinks you were not following the complicated bouncing ball on the self storage. I watched the meeting and the last one too.

    The Portland locals specifically told the consultant Smith they wanted very little car traffic there to impact their block. That’s why the dead side of Portland is getting those matching houses and behind it now, storage for the back side extension off the industrial buildings.

    Right now, residents look out on to open dirt and the service side of the industrial buildings. Ugly….Terrible. Go drive it. For the life of me why would anyone be against improving that view with same scale smaller houses. As starters..those don’t need back or side yards….another complaint.

    Once the houses are built to help improve street level visuals – it’s the interior mid-block space behind that’s getting the storage. That’s the dead zone..the same dead looking area today but supposedly better sculpted and layered…blocked first with new houses then the rise to the mid-block with even some green on the roofs they said. If offices went there instead..or expansions of more residential for Leach…you’d have even more traffic..less neighborhood feel…and more parking demands therefore the parking deck numbers and everything else could become problemmatic.

    Storage…while not sexy is a dead, low use space with minimal car traffic and limited people action – which is exactly what should happen happen in that interior space between those coming houses and the now existing buildings fronting on Bloomfield.

    To me..the real issue is the bulk of those buildings next to Leach…whether or not to put an addition on the police building…and the bulk of any newer stuff going into and past that gas station lot.

    If the Portland residents wanted more action..and more cars and traffic..that’s a different story. But they said they don’t. They also now said they didn’t want this low impact, low people use storage business and instead want a community center. A community or senior center brings in lots of traffic in and out. So some of those folks are really thinking it through.

    Low impact…limited car traffic use for the dead, middle block space…the storage or equivalent seems great. Want an office building or more residential there instead — then be prepared for more traffic into the Portland corridor.

    As to your point of “we” spending millions. We are not. It’s all private developers they said. So here — goals set the results..not the other way around.

    Whether that whole municipal move thing really pans out money wise still remains to be seen.

  4. “You can tell the board is handcuffed by the developer …”

    Nope. We handcuffed ourselves. It’s our Hotel Syndrome. We want to move the Police Department & Town Hall. All else is secondary. (Please stop saying the Leach building is 80′ high)

    As far as the Portland locals, they need to accept there will be a 200 car deck fully utilized one way or the other and that the 200 cars, like restaurant tables, will turnover several times a day…and more so on weekends.

    Their concerns are misplaced though. During the MC Hotel approval, the Board’s traffic consultant concurred with the developer’s traffic consultant that the hotel use would not have any significant increase in traffic compared to the traffic from the previously approved mixed use building.

    I didn’t understand it and still don’t, but everyone else seemed ok with it. I just couldn’t figure how a 140 room hotel at nine stories (with a rooftop bar/restaurant and various function rooms) was not going to generate a significant increase in traffic compared to a 6 story, 67 apartment mixed use building. But, these are the facts and the Portland neighborhood can not claim a higher use will cause a traffic issue if there wasn’t one with the hotel.

  5. That traffic report for the hotel is b.s. That whole block there along Harrison/Orange…where the existing deck is — combined with the Hillside school and that pre-k will now be jammed and backed up. Parents already come in the AM in a line to unload their kids. That’s when the hotel will be loading too.

    But the new deck for the police building is not letting out on to Portland I believe. The only thing coming out on to Portland is a storage exit for trucks only. Portland is minimized – unless the residents change their minds and want that community and senior center. This is why what they say makes no sense. They don’t want traffic into their block, but then want a senior center there.

  6. “Whether that whole municipal move thing really pans out money wise still remains to be seen.”

    Uh, the Police Department move is going to happen. There is no Plan B. The only thing still open is the negotiation.

  7. So all that noise about hiring consultant to estimate if cashflow from leaasing/selling police building and 205 claremeont would cover lease in new builing was all just a ruse? I’m shocked!

    Thaank goodness are town employees will have beautiful state of the art offices.

  8. Word is the police building is so out of code and in need of required modernization elements that a move in mandated. But so what. A consultant still needs to crunch the numbers for moves v. rebuild-renovations etc. etc.

    I’m not opposed to the moves and the rental flips. But like most taxpayers..I want to see the need played out..the costs and benefits of the different approaches. If it makes good economic sense. That’s a must. This can not be done to provide new offices for town employees. Residents should go wild if the logic doesn’t hold because that’s what these guys promised.

  9. I’m not a big fan of the Leach Building and believe it is a serious impediment to a great redevelopment concept. I also don’t think it is a historically key-contributing building

    Let me first address if my POV is wrong and it is an important historical building. Good preservation allows for the option of repurposing its historic use into another use, e.g. office space. Bad preservation is significantly altering the appearance of an historic building so that the original use is no longer evident. Converting a storage building facade into a faux “daylight factory” appearance – a factory it never was nor had in this section of town – is historically inappropriate. How many historically inappropriate mistakes can we fit on just this one block?

    Next, the original 2013 study was not kind to this building and its use. Both were cited as major reasons for redevelopment. I think we have adequately covered the stupidity of expanding the self-storage use. But, it also highlighted the communication arrays atop and draping off the sides of the building. The report also mentioned the leasing income for that equipment was more valuable than the storage use.

    What if the plan called for a cell tower on top of a 4-story parking deck instead of self-storage? A tower would let natural light still reach Portland Place. Now combine this with replacing, rather then renovating, the Leach Bldg with a more appropriate sized new building that fits with buildings on this block and on the adjacent blocks. Unsaddling the plan of the Leach Bldg opens up a whole new set of development possibilities and uses.

    It’s not going to happen. I only describe it to illustrate the mediocrity of what is being proposed.

  10. The Leach Building, in my opinion, has no valuable historic significance to Montclair Center and its only outstanding characteristic is that its too tall.

  11. I have to admit there is a reassuring symmetry in the exchange where the Police Department moves to Lackawanna and the Steps To Nowhere move to Gateway 2.

  12. I’ve always liked the Leach Building. Although it may not be historically significant, I’ll take a Leach’s good old solid brick facade with some well-placed detail here and there over those pathetic 1/2″ thick crapola panels they slapped onto the facades at ValleyBloom. Let’s hope they used rust proof fasteners, or we’re gonna see those sidewalk sheds for a long time to come.

  13. STQ,
    I initially thought you were just being sentimental for bricks, but it is more you favor “anything but” the V&B, Siena, etc. building quality. Fine. I get that. But, because of it you are missing the big picture:

    The entire Gateway 2 plan hinges on the Leach Building. Regardless of whether it stays…or goes….or both (yes). Everything else – the parking, the workforce housing, the green space – are just shiny balls in the air.

    The September 28th meeting will see the proverbial Ship Sail for the Planning Board.
    You will sign off on height and mass and that will be all the Council needs. Just remember I told you so,

  14. Frank R.- that’s why I am now grappling with my decision for the the proposed modification to the historic police building…my concerns about added bulk/height in the gas station lot and other lots/spaces going west (given the existing bulk from V&B)…as well as the proposed allowed height in the building east of Leach.

    Did I miss any other spot of significance?

    The mid-block height added behind Leach hidden from Bloomfield and the small house proposal in front of that seems to be a well-conceived solution to hide the the Portland “dreck” residents see there now.

    All thoughts and POV’s welcomed….now is the time.

  15. POV?
    A total moratorium on re development in Montclair until the right people are put in place to handle it. Your all just enabling Valley & Bloom to spread and just going to write it off as “the ship as sailed”.

  16. “My concerns about the bulk/height in the gas station lot and other lots/spaces going west…”

    I am wondering what bulk in the gas station lot you are referring to since I thought it was a foregone conclusion that this valuable parcel, which was being used wonderfully as open space and a lovely two story structure set back from the curb in Ira Smith’s presentation, is going to stay as a gas station. I hope I am wrong as I feel that nothing detracts from a space and makes the job of placemaking harder than a gas station with huge curb cuts on this prime intersection.

    It is unfortunate that so many of our valuable intersections in town, and all across suburbs in general are inhabited by ugly and unkempt gas stations…there are five alone along the one mile stretch of Bloomfield Avenue.

    I strongly encourage the planning board to at least consider the wonderful idea of having an attractive, low-bulk, two-story structure set back from the intersection AND the conversions of the parking lot that is diagonal to this plot into a public green space. This is what is lacking so much in the downtown center. THERE IS NO PLACE TO JUST “BE” AND SIT. With so much effort and success with pedestrian places and peacemaking going on in manhattan, and our most popular and valuable public space in Montclair on Church St….it is astonishing to me that the board would not seek to just create as many Church Streets as humanly possible. People love it. People come for other towns to be there. Wherever we can surround restaurants and cafes and entertainment with open spaces where people can congregate and sit and socialize we should do it. I know you are saying “know is the time” Martin so please…eveyrone I talk to around town and from other towns boasts about the vibrance and great feel of Church st…let’s make more of them…instead of having two dead spaces like a surface parking lot and a gas station (oh yeah…and self-storage…which is a true disgrace but is something that I feel people are being forced to come to terms with as it is not going away) on what is supposed to be a “gateway” to our wonderful town.

  17. Martin,

    I’m not clear what you are grappling with.

    Is it that the plan before you requires keeping an ugly building that creates what many are calling a dead space behind it and also requires us to in needlessly increase the adjacent historic building’s height by 45% to hide it? Or are you grappling with the mid-block mass of a new 7+ story building in an attempt to make “function-based” lemonade out of “form-based” lemons? Or are you grappling with the fact you have your stepbacks, but they don’t alter the massing conflict? Or is it a question of being able to add windows to the Eastern facade of the Leach Building?

    I appreciate your concern for the Portland Pl residents, but do you think just because the proposed massing falls below the sky plane makes a different kind of dreck acceptable? What the plan proposes for the Valley Rd elevation is eerily similar to what Gateway 1 did to Orange Rd. And this is all euphemistically labeled a “Gateway” to Montclair Center?

  18. I can’t keep up with the minutiae of this debate, but what strikes me is how top down it is. Are there businesses coming to the town asking if they can buy/lease an hightened police building and windowed leach building or is this just Field of Dreams redux?

  19. Frank R. – how about a less circular conversation set up of you questioning the things I’m concerned with (all of the above mentioned)…and lets hear your specific suggestions of what to do and what not to do where — and perhaps why. Heights, design and spacially? That would be more useful rather than verbal gymnastics. Do it as bullets by lot if you want. For instance, should the Leach brick skin be required to remain and the skin on all other buildings nearby (including the deck mirror the same “warehouse” look – not allowing any cheap new modern or “wanna be” blend ins like Valley and Bloom? Or other POV’s on build and design.

    Parkour…I already pushed to keep the gas station there not just as a needed service use..but for the spacial relief you noted. That’s already in the draft now. The problem is Gateway One across the street. Too much bulk and volume. Therefore adding to those corners at all further creates a canyon feel no matter what. So in draft copy now, the gas station was allowed again as a conditional use…but the issue is what happens if the current owner sells and it goes…That is the issue for allowing more bulk and volume. Where does the open space end and then how high are the buildings allowed going west of that station… with or without set-backs. Same for the building east of Leach. So all this has to be legislated now.

    It’s also why more open space was put in at another location in the mix for the Portland place area. To provide open visual relief. Note: Other master plans like the Hamptons along route 39 are not as concerned about use – but more about look and feel. As I’ve noted before, they legislated in a way that when Hess Gas wanted to renovate…they had to make the gas islands into wood shingle covered sheds and the convenience store there like an outbuilding or barn. We can do the same here with similar concepts appropriate for Montclair all over. Less on use..more on look and feel.

    Remember folks…this is a mix of existing ownership with the Township anticipated to own the police building lot and the Police building…others privately. So we still have to deal with existing ownership..the existing height of Leach and the existing usage of the gas station etc etc….

    As to more Church Streets Parkour…Walnut has done quite nicely….the next extension of Church is going down Glen Ridge Ave…except we are about to mess that up with some new 5 story buildings there at the bottom – again approved under the Fried Administration. Frank GG. is correct on that front as those choices were made years ago….with someone minding the store concerned about inappropriate and overdevelopment…this could have been modified.

    Consequently, I’ve now re-reviewed the master plan and believe we need to rework zoning for a number of streets down around that area. The zoning is c-1 – six stories – part of the downtown Bloomfield corridor. Most of the buildings however are 1-3 story max. There’s been excellent organic market development in there. We need to continue that and not expand the bloomfield building size into this neighborhood. But as to Parkour’s point of creating more Church Streets potentially for Gateway Two…will not happen. You have six story zoning now along Bloomfield…you have a 74 foot high building already there and it’s a dead zone with no bodies on the street creating high turnover retail not working. It’s not a charming off the main drag area. It’s Bloomfield Avenue. We need to handle the mix right there for generating some new residential peeps for buyers…but also the right visual volume and enough street action to drive and support that retail. Unfortunately, the last Council and Board blew it with Gateway One original approvals (frank R give up the digs. The parameters and Plan for the Gateway One boundaries and setbacks were approved under Fried’s reign)

    Many are now trying to get Gateway Two into the right ballpark. That’s why sky-plane set-backs are there now for the Portland residents…legislated open space…and questions about volume and bulk coming for Police and other lots given Gateway One. So all thoughts and visions welcomed….

  20. Martin,

    The Plan REQUIRES the Leach building to remain. Furthermore, the Plan does not say why it has to remain. A developer can not replace it so we are not looking at any of these options.

  21. Next, reread your Master Plan, e.g. your earlier master plan drafts (pg 50) advocating podium buildings, now on pg 84 with sky plane. You approved the verbiage, but dropped the photograph of the Philly building.

    Why can’t the parking deck be 4 floors (still under sky plane)? Insert a mixed use, 4 floor liner building in front of the deck and still room for one further half floor of mixed use over the deck. Yes, incorporate the deck entrance into the ground level, but there is still room for retail. It works parking capacity-wise and is certainly more attractive than the current ugliness. You just have to give up the objective for additional evening & weekend parking for the rest of Montclair Center. As Mr Smith noted in his presentation, the Maple Pl is ideally suited for a future parking deck to serve Montclair Center West.

  22. BTW, this streetscape design I propose is exactly what was proposed for the Hahne’s Parking Lot the PB approved…and will be approved again if another use goes into this lot.

  23. Martin, If it’s an ownership issues that is handcuffing the has station lot than so be it…I can accept that although it is quite discouraging that gas will be the use for the next few decades, but when I get frustrated it when bad and ugly and non-vibrant things are kept or built for lack of creativity.

    You are saying that the the gas station is being kept to provide “relief from the bulk and height” I agree that such relief needs to be provided but is a gas station the only way to do so. The same logic is being applied with the self-storage. “self-storage is being applied to fill the inner part of a block which is a dead space.” Well, instead of just giving up and substituting one dead space for another, how about using the block more creatively? It is not some freak of nature block in terms of shape as many would like us to believe, it is a trapezoid, and it is the building of the 6 townhomes on Portland that is creating this “dead inner space” but what if those townhouse were not there. Wouldn’t we have tremendouse amount of freedom and more of blank slate with the parcel. I understand that the residents of the block should have a say in the matter but in a way, by demanding a residential use on that side of the road, they are dictating what happens on the entire block and that seems unfair.

  24. Frank Rubacky – Lately I have been thinking that Pinnacle simply upchucked that inferior panel system onto the facade of Valley Bloom just to get it up’n’rented ASAP. Good chance they figured that in 5 years, they’d have a massive facade restoration program in full effect.
    It is possible that their accountants had told them that it was reasonable to assume that the increased rents in the near future would justify the ‘after the fact’ repair costs, which would then be extracted from the operating budget rather than the initial capital expense budget. This is similar to what one can see in Manhattan currently, where the reconstruction of inferior facade systems on recent structures is pumping up restoration engineers, restoration contractors, and dumpster companies with amply padded accounts receivable.

  25. STQ,
    I agree. The paneling system reminds me of the interior walls in old pre-war beach houses, motels, etc.

    I have come to the conclusion we are requiring the rehab of the obsolete Leach Building solely because current building codes, form based design ordinances, etc. will not be adequate enough to get an acceptable exterior design quality. Unfortunately, this would not bode well for the other 3 redevelopment plans coming down the pipeline.

    PS: I believe the PILOT agreement uses net revenue to calculate payments.

  26. Doesn’t it bother you that you are going to approve the 4th Pinnacle project before the second one is done? What is it, 6 or 9 months late? What fiscal year will we start seeing PILOTs?

    The 3rd project – the hotel? That’s already a year late. I hope Marriott doesn’t back out. That would really suck.

    Now the Council wants you to review the 5th Pinnacle project next month? Is the 6th Pinnacle project the month after or are we saving it for the December holidays?

    This is great. Montclair is growing up with PPG’s help.
    We’re hitting the big time.

  27. Frank…

    I too am astounded that the planning board is putting as much stock in one developer as they have in PIncacle, especially since members of the board keep hinting at how the aesthetically disappointing The Sienna and Valley and Bloom are to them…anyway…

    Could you expand on what the 4th, 5th and 6th projects are

    4th Lackawanna Plaza
    5th ????
    6th ???

    I am just trying to keep it all on track in my mind.

  28. Here is my list:

    1) Hahne’s 1/The Siena

    2) G1-1 Valley & Bloom
    3) G1-2 The MC Hotel
    4) G2-1 The Leach Bldg+
    5) MC-1 Lackawanna Plaza
    6) MC-2 Seymour St/Wellmont (SSA Bldg?)

    FYI – The PB does not designate the redevelopment area developer. The Council does.

  29. A little ticky-tacky correction to the Plan on page 25, last paragraph. This sentence is incorrect:

    “The rear additions to the building are not considered significant and may be reused or demolished as appropriate.”

    This rear 4-story “addition” is actually what was salvaged of the original building heavy damaged in a fire. So, let’s dispense with the historic preservation trappings.

  30. Frank R. — Pilots — according to the town attorney are based on gross revenues.

    Parkour said: “Frank…I too am astounded that the planning board is putting as much stock in one developer as they have in Pincacle”…

    No one today is putting stock in anyone. Pinnacle, with different partners, buys the properties quickly before development because they are here..they hear and know what’s happening and are smart to move quickly. They are fleet of foot. That’s why they are in there at the start…it’s not selection. They bought Lackawana from Arc and recently bought the Leach building. They bought the Wellmont from the Rosen Group. No redevelopment plans have been created….nothing set in stone. They just know action is coming.

    Previously, they paid the DCH car ownership an option of 100k plus originally to get into that project. Regardless, before getting on the board I spoke up constantly when Pinnacle was designated redeveloper at Valley and Bloom that the entire project should still be put up on the open market. I believe the town Manager did as well at the time. Again Fried and company did not listen. We heard ridiculous lines like “we can’t tell the car dealership who should be the developer”…which was nonsense since we owned the ground lease of the parking deck and the project couldn’t proceed without our ok.

    So in the words of Mr. Trump – we had idiots and losers negotiating then. We were taken to the cleaners a bit – especially on the parking deck on Church Street.

    Today, I still argue all new projects coming should be put out to the market. Nonetheless, buying up premier positions by taking the anchor properties for each project – is a smart business move by Pinnacle. It inhibits others from playing. And it logically does put them in a premier position to get the secondary purchases after – self created. That’s the story…not some nefarious behind the scenes action you may think. Others talk…they pre-buy — the early bird who gets the worm.

    Convince others you prefer more to move quickly here and this will not be an issue. Everyone at the town level would welcome the competition.

  31. Martin,

    Well, I have to correct myself on two points:

    1) Our attorney is obviously correct. My mistake was confusing calculating PILOT with the Excess Profits clause.

    2) The remaining 4-story section of original Leach Building is clearly historic and the Township Planner, nor the Council, can not say it isn’t, much less approve demolition without MHPC review. So, I was wrong to call it ticky-tacky. It seems it may be serious complication to the PB moving on the Plan.

  32. Bad day for me. I think I’m wrong about the Leach building on Bloomfield being destroyed by fire. It looks like it was their Storage Warehouse # 2, location unknown to me. The 6 story Leach building was contracted to build in 1919. My apologies. I need to be more thorough.

  33. There’s some time here Frank R.. Work through all your POVs and facts…talk to whoever….then put it on the table. I would like to hear all views/POV’s and all details associated with this – to develop a comprehensive and smart position. This remains a work in progress on all fronts. You have my email.

  34. I have previously expressed my POV here and it concerns me that you are overlooking them.

    All the hazarai aside, the singular reason we are doing this is to infuse economic vitality into an area where “the bulk of this acreage consists of buildings and/or improvements which are largely obsolete and faultily arranged, and, in certain instances, constrained by known or suspected contamination, so as to be detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the community.”

    Of course, we also want to accomplish this with an aesthetically acceptable design, but historically, as is for this plan, a secondary objective as evidenced by the plan and our previous redevelopments.

    I concede there have been a few incremental aesthetic improvements like the sky plane concept. Yet, others, like the floor stepbacks, work against the primary goal and actually detract from the streetscape aesthetics.

    Fundamentally, this plan all revolves around the build out of Block 2209, the Leach Building block. The block’s potential is critically compromised by adding another 7+ story mass and the storage use. We can’t have a discussion to explore alternatives because this element appears to be non-negotiable. For instance, while the Maple Parking Plaza is technically not part of this Gateway 2 phase, it is part of the Gateway area. The lot adjacent to the Leach Bldg is designated in need of redevelopment, but is not being addressed.

    I see a lot of a ‘can’t do’ mindset.

    The build out of other 2 blocks in the plan are both predicated & constrained on/by Block 2209. The plan for these blocks is no more than an appendix to the Master Plan.

    So, we can niff-naw over this and that detail like community space, workforce vs low income housing, setbacks and my favorite, the parklets concept. None of which will contribute to the primary economic objective and arguably of little impact on the aesthetics.

    For the current Planning Board, the Valley Rd North streetscape will be what Gateway 1’s Orange Rd streetscape was to that Planning Board. My only question is whether the PB’s recommendation to the Council this time will also be unanimous. I just hope one appointed member dissents to represent the minority viewpoint on this plan.

  35. Coming soon, the next Baristanet poll: Vote for your favorite new town name!

    (1) Pinnclair
    (2) Pinnacleville
    (3) Stolarville
    (4) Canyonlands


  36. Martin…or anybody…could someone please provide me with an explanation as to why the two other blocks (other than block 2209) as presented in Ira Smith’s presentation is completely different from what is being proposed and discusses by the planning board.

    In Ira’s presentation, the gas station block has a two-story structured set back from the street on both Vally and Bloomfield with green space in front or it. Yet in the plan being discussed by the planning board…there is zero development on that block, and the gas station stays but with “beautifications” (by the way..I cannot wait to see a beautified Delta gas station as they are notoriously ugly and unkempt even for a gas station all over the area..)

    In Ira’s presentation the parking lot on the SE corner of Valley and Bloomfield is a public park, which would be amazing, yet that still seems “many years down the road” according to some board members and will stay as is for now.

    I hope people come our at the next meeting and at least go on record on how disappointing and underwhelming this “gateway” is looking as it stand right now. For years it was drawn up on maps as “the vibrant entrance to Montclair” and a “place people with want to be.” Now it appears that all of that false hope has been translated into…

    1) Dead Space #1 – The conversion of an obsolete storage building while simultaneously building another 60,000 sq ft of storage.

    2) Dead Space #2 – A slightly nicer looking gas station.

    3) Dead Space #3 – Another surface parking lot in addition to the 200 car structured parking lot below people’s unwanted junk in storage.

    I am waiting to anyone…anyone to justify how this plan will bring more people to that part of town. Looking more and more like a wasted opportunity every day:(

  37. I’m still holding out for Glenmont, but I have no problem if we call this section of town Fort Pinnacle.

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