A discussion of the Orange Road parking deck’s usage in relation to the proposed MC Residences, as well as development of the area overall, was halted during the planning board’s Jan. 13 meeting by members who are seeking more information.

The Orange Road parking deck was expected to provide 119 parking spaces for Valley & Bloom, 231 spaces for the MC Hotel (with 123 reserved at all times), and 78 for Board of Education employees, as well as public parking. But now the developer of the MC Residences is looking for space there as well.

The MC Residences, the 46-unit mixed-use project proposed by Pinnacle Cos. for 33-37 Orange Road, requires 96 parking spaces by code — 87 for the dwelling units, nine for the retail component. Instead of installing a stacking system on site, the applicant proposes to split the required 96 spaces between 38 on-site spots and 58 at the adjacent Orange Road deck.

Although the Montclair Center Gateway Redevelopment Plan still cites the owner of the parking deck as the township, tax records reflect the sale to MAP Urban Renewal LLC in 2013 for $1.225 million

According to township records, the township created the Orange Road Parking Plaza in 1948 and made a subsequent 1967 purchase of what is now Centro Verde Way for access from Valley Road, combining the lots, and declaring it a redevelopment area. The town leased the land to DCH Auto Group in 2003; the group built a storage deck in 2004, with Montclair retaining exclusive rights to 78 spaces, historically used by the neighboring BOE office, for $1. 

The Gateway Redevelopment Area was created in 2012 and absorbed the redevelopment area. Pinnacle partnered with MAP Urban Renewal to refurbish the parking deck. The plan requires Montclair to retain the 78 spaces.

Subsequently, MAP, replaced by LCOR, developed the hotel parcel and the Valley & Bloom development.

“The underlying premise behind creating the redevelopment area was to revitalize that part of town with the caveat of providing public parking,” planning board member Martin Schwartz said. “The board wants to ensure at the end of the day with all these developments, Valley & Bloom, the hotel, the MC Residences, the BOE and the retail, that they will still provide drive-in parking for residents and area businesses.”

In defense of the MC Residences’ use of 58 spaces in the garage, engineer Karl Pehinke representing Pinnacle had planned to discuss his report on the actual usage of the garage from 2019 up to Jan. 1, a time span including the opening of the hotel. But board member Carole Willis insisted that the applicant first present the number of spaces required based on the number of users. Pehinke countered that the numbers were based on a shared parking plan that in effect showed the garage was underutilized. 

“I know it’s based on shared parking,” she said. “When numbers are based on how many hotel rooms there are, how many apartments there are, how many spaces are set aside for the various users, I want clarity on that before we talk about how it’s functioning,” she said.  

According to a report submitted by Langan Engineers, the Orange Road deck is currently designed to provide 498 parking spaces that can be self parked. It is being modified to add a “lift and slide” system utilizing valet attendants that will increase the total capacity to 614 parking spaces. Under a full valet scenario it can provide a maximum of 760 parking spaces. 

Since the garage is also expected to provide pay-as-you-go public parking, planning board members questioned why a sign was posted September to November stating the garage was closed to the general public. Pehinke said some of the decks were closed due to repaving and that parking management had to save parking for permit holders. Board members said that the management system should have managed the lot with a valet in order to keep the lot open to the public.

“How can we rely on what you present as a shared-parking system managed through valet that works? It has to operate as promised,” said chair John Wynn.

The engineer countered that the developer did not own the garage, nor run it. ProPark is the parking deck’s management company.

Schwartz pointed to the redevelopment agreement that states: “A determination of minimum parking requirements shall be based upon the aggregate total of parking requirements for individual uses. In recognition of the mixed-use nature of the redevelopment, the redeveloper is encouraged to submit a shared parking analysis as part of the site plan application. If acceptable, the planning board may relax the aggregate total of required spaces to account for the shared use of the provided spaces.”

Questions over the 78 parking spaces that were supposed to be set aside for the BOE and public also came up for discussion now that the town has leased back 30 of them to MAP at $52,000 annually. Board consultant Gerard Giosa said that the remaining 48 are for exclusive use for the town, but are distributed throughout the deck. He also said the garage owner, not the town, is collecting revenue from those spots used by the general public since they all self-park spots and fares are collected by one gated payment system. The BOE does pay the town's parking authority the $50 a month per a spot.

“We agreed conceptually to this to provide public parking, now we have lost spaces and are losing money,” said Schwartz.

Planner Janice Talley said that there is no termination clause to the leasing back of the 30 spots. She said that the township attorney and the parking authority are now aware of the lost revenue.

According to the Langan report submitted to the planning department, usage in the Orange Road deck peaked in 2019 on the day of the hotel’s grand opening, when 413 vehicles were parked there. The next closest peak demand hour occurred on Election Day, Nov. 5, when 329 vehicles parked in the garage. Based on all the daily reports since Jan 1, 2019, the average peak hour demand is 274 spots, about 44 percent of the deck’s normal operating capacity and 36 percent of the full valet capacity. 

Pehinke asserted that hotel users are either occupants from out of town or restaurant- and bar-goers who were using ride-share services rather than driving to the hotel. 

According to the redevelopment plan, parking ratio requirements are one space per bedroom within multi-family residences, four spaces per 1,000 square feet for retail, eating and drinking establishments, and one space per hotel room.