Before: One of the views presented for the proposed Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan.

Montclair, NJ – Taking feedback on the Lackawanna Redevelopment Plan from the Montclair Planning Board report and the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) report, Montclair’s Director of Planning and Community Development Janice Talley, along with Keenan Hughes of Phillips Preiss Grygiel and Ira Smith of Smith Maran Architecture, have been tasked with modifying the redevelopment plan.

Some of that revising involved pulling the buildings back or down in height. Smith explained what’s happening in the before and after images seen here.

After: A revised version of the same view.

The red-dashed line represents the envelope of construction that was possible under original redevelopment plan draft. You can contrast it with the building forms that are shown within the envelope. In the after image, the first floor of retail is retained along Glenridge Avenue and then the upper stories of the building are all reduced in height, with three stories carved away facing the Matthew G. Carter housing and the Clover Hill homes. There’s no construction on top of first story of retail on the whole northeast corner.

This is just one view of proposed changes to the plan, said Smith. Individual councilors have had the opportunity to review revisions and offer their feedback to the plan, most recently Councilors Rob Russo and Dave Cummings on Friday.

Smith said he didn’t believe that any of the councilors were comfortable with the first proposed redevelopment plan and they were taking the recommendations from the Planning Board and HPC seriously as well as what they have heard from constituents in terms of their recommendations for changes.

Making the changes is a balancing act, said Smith, because “you can’t change on thing and expect that there will be no impact on something else” in the plan.

The changes to the view of the project above show a “dramatic reduction of height on the east side of grove along Glenridge,” says Smith. “So the question is, does the residential units that are cut move elsewhere, and how could they, if another goal is not to increase height?”

Smith says the after image suggests fewer units in the overall project, bringing in less revenue, to both the investor and the Township. He also said the changes could impact open space.

While the working group has maintained contact with the redeveloper David Placek in so far as testing out different possibilities for modifying the project, Smith says the focus has been on the internal discussion for the Township, revising the plan to be more specific to what the Council envisions for the site, based on feedback received.

Smith said next steps would be an update to the Council’s Economic Development Committee (EDC) with the re-examination of the draft plan including all the feedback from the councilors who reviewed it.

The EDC could either decide to move forward and have the revised plan written up and share an updated redevelopment plan with the public, or it could invite the redeveloper to first provide his feedback on the revised draft.

Either way, expect to see a new round of imagery showing the changes, much like the images above.

Councilor Peter Yacobellis, in an email to constituents, said he believed a consensus is developing on the Council “around reducing the height and the density across the plan in a thoughtful way.”

“The architect reviewed the issues and proposals to lower heights of buildings and reduce the number of units,” said Councilor Russo of the presentation he sat through Friday with Councilor Cummings. “I think we are moving in the right direction and I am hopeful we can keep scaling back the whole development to fit in with the surrounding community and lessen the impact on the residents of Cloverhill, Grove, Glenridge Ave., and at the Mews.”

At the last Council meeting, Councilor Cummings spoke about the financial opportunity the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan presents for the Township and how the “revenue from a good PILOT would give us the finances to do some good things.”

Cummings mentioned possibilities including a community center or improving the police department facilities. “But we have to get Lackawanna Plaza right.”

When asked for his impressions on the Lackawanna presentation he attended Friday, Cummings was succinct.

“It’s a start,” he said.

Montclair Residents for Responsible Development, a group that opposed the proposed redevelopment plan, will hold a meeting meeting on Sunday, April 16th, 4 p.m. at the Bay Street Station Firehouse.

“Our sense of alarm has only grown, particularly over its impact on gentrification and the environment,” said Laila Maher, a member of the group and a Lackawanna Plaza area resident. “In the time since the petition was started, we have looked more deeply at the potential impact of this plan. We were already concerned about massive density that will be concentrated in the area and the resulting traffic, pollution, and overcrowding. With rents around us increasing exponentially, this plan would open the door wide to further gentrification of the 4th Ward, speeding up the loss of diversity that has been so central to Montclair’s identity.”

The group is also demanding that the Township Council require an independent and comprehensive environmental study before approving any redevelopment plan at the Lackawanna site, stating that flooding risks and potential mitigation measures, including a possible daylighting of the stream under the property, must be examined, “particularly at this time when climate change is expected to bring more intense storms with greater flooding risks.”

2 replies on “Second Time Around: Montclair’s Lackawanna Plan Revision Process”

  1. “The group is also demanding that the Township Council require an independent and comprehensive environmental study before approving any redevelopment plan at the Lackawanna site,” -Montclair Residents for Responsible Development

    This is just brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!
    Yes, definitely a comprehensive study because such a study will sample the current soil, water & air for contaminants we might not have had the means to quantify back when this was redeveloped with Affordable Housing under Urban Renewal.

    Yes, before we build more or daylight Anthony’s Brook, we – and the State and the Federal governments – should feel absolutely comfortable what is there today meets standards.

    100 years ago (1921) the town looked at this area and decided it should be given the Heavy Industry Zone designation. I guess there was pushback, so they dropped the Heavy Industry and called it the M-1 Industrial Zone. The M-1 Industrial Zoning was generally limited to following Toney’s Brook…all the way into Upper Montclair. We have more than a few ground monitoring stations up our way. How many are in Lackawanna? After the Urban Renewal designation, we went with the tried & true C-1 Zone.

    Anyway, maybe we can get State and/or Federal grant $ to conduct this comprehensive study? Yes, we’ll just put it on the to-do list for our contractor, The Aubrey Group.

  2. I feel like “Montclair Residents for Responsible Development” = Make Montclair Great Again. The line up for the April 16th event is quite the group. They’ll next be seen collectively on the lawsuit they’ll inevitably file against the Township, funded by Cary Heller, to stop the development. Interestingly Mr. Heller stands to lose on this deal if the neighboring retailers he owns, who sell a lot of food to 4th ward residents have to compete with a grocery store. I’ll be staying far away from this gathering.

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