BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

The Seymour Street parking deck operators received a certificate of occupancy for the new South Fullerton Deck from the township on Tuesday, Jan. 5, and expected to open it by week’s end.

That clears the way for the closure of the Midtown lot on Glenridge Avenue — which some business owners said took them by surprise when the township announced on short notice it expected to close that lot on Monday, Jan. 4. 

Township officials, who say they had notified the Montclair Center Business Improvement District and the businesses earlier about the Midtown lot closure, ultimately agreed to put it off until at least one other deck planned for the Seymour Street development project could open.

In addition, the new decks’ operators, Iron State / Little Man Parking, have agreed to introduce a more affordable pricing model until construction of the new municipal Midtown deck is complete — addressing some businesses’ concerns that their customers would see huge price hikes at the private decks, even if spots were available.

The Midtown lot was to close Monday for construction to expand the facility from 83 to 314 public parking spots, officials announced last week on the municipal website. But the lot remained open after businesses quickly banded together and petitioned against the lot’s closure, gathering 800 signatures in eight hours. 

On Tuesday, after receiving their certificate of occupancy, Dennis Giuliano, Vice President of Development at Ironstate Development Company said the garage would open by the end of the week.

The project on the Midtown lot site, at the intersection of Glenridge Avenue and North Willow Street, is part of the Seymour Street development, which is bringing apartments, office space, retail and an arts plaza to the area of the Wellmont Theater on Bloomfield Avenue. That two-building project also includes 434 parking spots in the two new decks to accommodate the residents and retail, and also will offer public permit parking. 

Although the township offered parking at neighboring lots, last week owners of several affected businesses said that the town was not communicating with them on the closure and alternative parking. Some local business owners say they had no idea the Midtown lot was to close Monday until a sign went up in the lot.

Councilman Peter Yacobellis, who worked with the businesses and the deck operators, told Montclair Local that once a new deck opens, it would trigger the formal closure of the Midtown lot.

Businesses also raised concerns about what they termed “prohibitive parking fees” at the new decks — daily rates of $7 for up to 12 hours, or $10 for up to 24 hours, a huge price hike from what had been $1.50 for two hours or $50 monthly at the Midtown lot. But Tuesday, Little Man Parking said it would also offer hourly rates of $2 per hour, $4 for two, or up to 15 minutes for free. A monthly parking permit will be $130, according to the operators.

The nearby Crescent lot charges $2 an hour. 

Yacobellis said the rates will now be on par with other municipal decks.

About 40 spots will be available for the public at South Fullerton and another 20 at the North Willow lot, said township attorney Ira Karasick.

“They will ensure that customers can dine, shop and utilize the services of the businesses in the area at an affordable price, until the new Midtown deck with its municipal rates is open,” Yacobellis said. “It should be noted that Ironstate and Little Man Parking didn’t need to be convinced to do the right thing and that the suggestions for this change started with the local businesses working with township employees. This is why community engagement is so key to the health of the community.” 

The Township Council approved an agreement in January 2018 allowing for the mixed-use Seymour Street project, but with the condition that the developers deliver a parking facility along with it to replace the loss of the two municipal lots at South Willow Street and South Fullerton Avenue needed to make way for the project. That parking facility will be the Glenridge/Midtown Avenue deck.

The entire project includes a six-story building at 2 South Willow that will feature rental apartments, 28,000 square feet of street-level retail space, 224 parking spaces and 10,000 square feet of space available for rental by artists. A seven-story building, at 1 Seymour Plaza, will rise just southwest of the Wellmont and include 40,000 square feet of office space and 210 parking spaces.