The Montclair community celebrated the creation of the Wellmont Arts Plaza — part of the Seymour Street development first approved by the Montclair Planning Board in 2017 — this weekend with a grand opening that included art workshops, live music and a ribbon-cutting.
“It's really so great to see the plaza with all of this life and these great stores and the Wellmont, and of course these great apartments,” David Barry, president and CEO of Ironstate Development Company, told the crowd Saturday, Nov. 20. The event had been postponed from a planned grand opening a week earlier, because of inclement weather. “We had a really warm and collaborative relationship, and it's a great town to work in — and I appreciate your balance and your respect of culture and business at the same time.”
The plaza also includes outdoor seating and space to host open-air performances.
“There's a reason for us to celebrate what makes us special, and this is a space to do it. This is going to give us opportunities to do it,” Mayor Sean Spiller, who along with other township officials joined the celebration and a ribbon-cutting, told the crowd. “This is just a wonderful experience that I think people are going to be able to enjoy coming into town, catching a show doing activities, going to school, visiting a space where they can watch outside activities and programs. This is Montclair. This is what's so special about it. This is getting it done.”
Nia West-Williams, owner of Mind Your Beads and Seeds about a mile away on Valley Road, was there as a vendor. When she was laid off from her corporate job at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, she got into beading, making bracelets.
“I’ve been going to the Wellmont ever since I was a young kid, so it’s beautiful to see them revamp it and just bring it back to life,” West-Williams said. “And after COVID, it’s just nice to be out and see all the beautiful people of Montclair.”
Kristen Zachares, owner of Eclectic Chic Boutique just down Bloomfield Avenue, said the plaza can be used in ways beneficial to the public and local businesses alike.
Quinn DeMilner, a 10-year-old from Verona, came with her dad, Kyle DeMilner — a big fan of public spaces like the arts plaza. She said she feels like the plaza is a fun space for people to come together.
“I just love listening to the music and going through all the stands and seeing all the people and supporting all the local artists here,” Quinn said.
For the celebration, artist Alex Cook directed a mural project in the center of the plaza. Participants were invited to help complete a painting that read “You Got This.” He’s previously worked on several projects in Verona based around the You are Loved mural project, which encourages works promoting its message of self-worth.
“It's positive messaging in community spaces, bringing the community together to actually create the message,” Cook said. “So, the community owns the message and it sort of means more when it's in the community.”
The One River School, an art school with locations in several states but mostly focused in New York and New Jersey, will soon open in the development. Gravity Vault, which offers rock climbing for all ages, opened this summer.
Summit Health recently opened up a 30,000 square foot health care hub in the development’s building at 1 Seymour St., making it one of the first commercial tenants of the project. The location on the sixth and seventh floors of the building has 63 exam rooms, and includes a pediatric suite that features both a separate sick visit and newborn waiting room. There are 20 primary care and specialty physicians at the hub. Services include pediatric otolaryngology; on-site diagnostic radiological imaging services including mammography, bone density, ultrasound, and general x-ray; on-site lab, providing phlebotomy, urinalysis, and blood tests; and outpatient procedures, including laryngoscopy and ENT procedures.
Summit celebrated its own opening with a ribbon-cutting earlier this month, joined by officials including Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill, Township Councilman Bob Russo, Councilman Peter Yacobellis, Councilman David Cummings and Councilwoman Lori Price Abrams.
The developers expect to announce more tenants shortly.
Artist Ben Rizzo, who moved to Montclair in July from New York City, was selling his paintings in the plaza Saturday while working on a big canvas. He said his favorite moment came when a 5-year-old boy helped him with his painting. He said it’s been fun being out in the community.
“It’s a good community as an artist too,” Rizzo said. “Because I’m locked away in my studio, you know? So it’s nice to see people and to have them watch me.”