Montclair church looking to give away a house for free before it’s razed
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The Redeemer Church of Montclair is giving away a home, with one caveat — you have to move it.
“Free house! You pay to move it, otherwise it will be demolished,” the ad reads in the Nov. 7 edition of Montclair Local.
The three-story house at 23 North Willow St. currently houses the church’s administrative offices and classrooms, which will move to a new two-story addition connected to the rear of the main church building and extended into the property at 23 Willow.
The church received approval from the zoning board in the fall of 2017 to demolish the six- bedroom, two-and-a-half bath house, with plans to add the two-story addition to its church building on the neighboring lot at 19 N. Willow St.
“The Historical Commission requested that we try and find someone who was willing to take it,” said Rev. Daniel Ying.
The Montclair Historic Preservation Commission reviewed Redeemer’s plans for the addition, which was designed by local architect Paul Sionas. The commission suggested the church should try to sell and relocate the 23 North Willow St. building rather than demolish it.
Prospective movers will have to move soon, however, said Ying.
Construction, which began in September of last year, is expected to be completed in January, said Ying. If there are no takers, the church plans to apply for the demo permit within the next week, with plans to raze the building in early January when they will move into the addition.
The addition will have a full basement and contain not only administrative offices, but classrooms and meeting rooms for the church, according to the application filed with the zoning board.
Although neighbors protested the application, contending it was “extremely massive” and “projects significant growth,” the church’s attorney Alan Trembulak argued that the church was not expanding, but wanted a better functioning facility with more room to “do exactly what they’re doing now in the house.”
The church will also construct a new parking area with 13 spaces for the expanded church-building site, and needed a variance because 30 spaces are required by local codes. The regulations mandate one parking space for every eight seats in the church, and it has 240 seats, according to Redeemer’s application.
Church administrator Loretta DiQuattro said the church has received a few inquiries about the house but nothing substantial.
Historic Preservation Chair Kathleen Bennett recalled that the commission did not find anything remarkable about the structure in its review, only that there were other homes on the block that were built to mirror it and they believed it was originally a two-family. According to tax records, it was built in 1910.
OTHER HOUSES ON THE MOVE
In 2017, the former home of African-American sports hero and business leader Aubrey Lewis was up for sale for $10 for any potential buyer who could move it. The land was approved for an eight single-family home development in the South End of Montclair. The sale had conditions however, that the new owner would have to move it within a quarter mile of its original 2.7-acre site at 44 Pleasant Ave. The buyer also had to be an individual, not a corporate entity. No one took the developer up on his offer, and the home was razed in May 2018.
In July 2017, the Carriage House on the site of The George Hotel, was relocated from the back of the site. It wasn’t much of a move, since the structure was just wheeled a short distance, to the side of the property that faces Claremont Avenue.
The 1796 Crane House was also moved in 1965 from its original location on Glenridge Avenue, to its current site on Orange Road. It had also served as the home of the YWCA and is now the headquarters of the Montclair History Center.
NO DEMO LAW
The town has introduced a demolition oversight law that will trigger a review by a historic preservation officer, who has not yet been named, when a demolition permit is applied for. The church is in a part of the Walnut Street area, which has been designated as a potential historic district. The law states that a review would be required for the razing of any structure in a historic district or a potential historic district.
Communications Director Katya Wowk said that since the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the demolition in September 2017, the demolition would not fall under the new law.
The church’s demolition allowance would fall under the moratorium regulations in place since February, which only applied to homes.
“The building at 23 North Willow Street is used by the Redeemer Church of Montclair as church offices, classrooms and other supportive space for the church. As such, the demolition moratorium applicable to 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-family dwellings does not apply,” Wowk said.