Lackawanna Plaza is finally up for redevelopment (again!). It is critical to advocate for and discuss this opportunity to bring a much-needed supermarket, affordable housing and public green space to our community.

At the heart of the current plan is affordable housing and housing for the workforce that is the heart of our town. We need to provide for our local workforce, particularly for essential workers such as teachers and firefighters, as it helps attract and retain top talent and keeps us from experiencing a shortage of skilled professionals where we most need them. 

Montclair should be home to dedicated and caring community workers, not the aspirational town in which they work and can’t afford to live. Additionally, affordable housing helps to keep an area socioeconomically diverse, which contributes to the overall strength and stability of our community.

That said, housing has to be built SOMEWHERE. It can go up in height, or it can go out, eating up space. This plan builds up because it’s better for the environment and allows for public green space, providing numerous benefits for both the environment and community building. 

Public green spaces can help improve air quality and reduce stormwater runoff in an area prone to flooding. It also provides a space for people to connect with nature and engage in outdoor activities. From a community-building standpoint, public green spaces and the activities/events they allow for lead to a sense of belonging and community pride. 

There is some discord around 4 stories of height vs. the current plan’s 6 stories. Building up rather than out allows us to reduce the amount of land that is paved over, which can lower the urban heat island effect and reduce the amount of stormwater runoff.  

In addition, taller buildings have a smaller footprint, which means they have less surface area exposed to the sun. This reduces the amount of energy needed to cool the building in the summer. 

The proximity of Lackawanna Plaza to public transport and to the walkable/bikeable neighborhood surrounding it can reduce the carbon emissions from personal car use, allowing it to house more residents with less traffic. As someone who lives just a block away, I know my family, and I rarely use our car to get to our many local attractions. 

If you care about affordable housing and the diversity Montclairians tout as a value and the environment, you must recognize that height cannot be compromised. If two stories are cut, affordable housing is likely to be reduced to the bare minimum 10% of units (as is common in almost all other Montclair development) in order to make the project viable, which is necessary for it to bring in a supermarket that is critical for the area. 

Requesting otherwise would be like requesting Target to open a store in which it would give away all of its products for free. It is simply not possible.

Building 6 stories up rather than sprawling out has numerous environmental and social benefits that should be considered as we work to address the challenges of climate change and prioritize maintaining Montclair’s diversity. I hope that our city leaders will prioritize these values in their planning and development decisions. It is time to get Lackawanna done. 

Marina Miller