pedestrian friendly
Plans presented at the Aug. 27 planning board meeting incorporate more of the train platforms.
Rendering Hampshire

By Jaimie Julia Winters 
winters@montclairlocal.news

New plans for Lackawanna Plaza include a larger supermarket and more repurposing of the train platform columns, but less parking. But one board member is pushing for more pedestrian accessibility with the proposed development.

A plan presented by architect Bruce Stieve and engineer Kevin Web on Monday, Aug. 27, planning board meeting would increase the the store square footage by 4,291 feet, up to 47,786, by bringing the former Pathmark store out to meet the covered train platforms, which would be incorporated into a glass-facade entrance. By doing so, 20 of the proposed parking places would be lost, said Web.

“By maintaining the current placement of the train sheds, it gave us an opportunity to increase the the size of [supermarket],” said Web.

The application for the historic Lackawanna railroad station property has been debated by the planning board for four years. Current plans call for a multi-use development including 154 units of housing with a rooftop pool and garden, a supermarket and some retail. The ticket area and waiting station, now the Pig & Prince, would be kept intact. But developers contend the train platforms, now part of glass-enclosed mall, need to be razed to make way for more parking for the supermarket. Historic preservationists seek to incorporate the train platforms into the plans as part of the supermarket or an atriumed market, however.

Plans were presented to keep 74 of the columns in place at the front of the retail and supermarket as covered atriums, and throughout the parking lot as decorative fixtures, while 24 would be removed with some of the those being relocated for use in a covered bus stop and at the entrance of the tunnel. A prior plan called for salvaging 76 of the 98 stanchions with 47 remaining in place.

Pedestrian friendly
Board member Carmel Loughman envisions a more pedestrian-friendly development.
Rendering Hampshire

Trautner said developers Pinnacle and Hampshire are in serious negotiations with a supermarket tenant, who he said was amicable to the change in plans incorporating the stanchions leading to less parking. He would not release the name of the prospective tenant due to pending negotiations.

Board members questioned if a survey of the train platform columns had been conducted. The board had asked for the survey of the age of the columns at the last meeting after the developers’ historian made claims that some of the stanchions were original, but some were added in the 1980 mall remodel of the train platforms.

Board member Martin Schwartz questioned why the developers’ professionals had not met with the planning board’s consultant.

“Nine months later … and we haven’t reviewed why they [the train platforms] need to be knocked down yet. We have made no progress on what was proposed months ago. We are facing a monologue here,” he said.

Attorney Tom Trautner said that the developers preferred an open dialogue about the project and could not “sit behind closed doors” to work out the details.

But Steive said the developers learned in a meeting with the fire department that keeping the canopies over the stanchions in the parking lot would interfere with emergency access. He added, the plan was close to one of the options planning board consultant Barton Ross had given in his report on salvaging the train platforms by opening them up and incorporating them into covered parking.

Also discussed was four loading docks in the back of building, three taxi spots and seven handicap spots. Parking would be straight-on, with two-way drive aisles. Plans for the historic horse trough call for it to be restored and moved to in front of the Pig & Prince restaurant and connected to a water feature. Plaques with the history of the station would be placed on the horse trough and in a walkway to Greenwood Avenue.

Motorists would access the parking lot through egresses on Grove Street and Bloomfield Avenue. Pedestrians would have access through a walkway from Greenwood Avenue directly next to the store, the restored stairway from Grove Street and Bloomfield Avenue.

But board member Carmel Loughman contended the plans lacked pedestrian-traffic consideration and pushed for back-door access along Glenridge Avenue.

“We are building this big building, we are 300 spaces short, we are in an urban area. Why are we talking more about parking and not about pedestrian access?” she asked.

Chairman John Wynn said most supermarkets do not have front and back entrances and are set up with registers and entrances in the front facing windows, which in this case would be facing Bloomfield Avenue. He said the higher grading in the back and the loading dock zone would not be customer-friendly.

Questions were raised about an easement through the tunnel under Grove Street, which is currently slated only for the private access of supermarket employees and residents of the housing planned on the east side.

Ross said he approved of much of the plans with the exception of installing lighting on the stanchions, calling it not historically correct, and the proposed decorative asphalt to mimic train tracks, which he said could be confusing for pedestrians. He also suggested that angled parking with one-way drive lanes could save more of the columns.

In July, Bradley Knab of Mehmert Store Services in Wisconsin testified that a 45,000-square foot was too large for an urban area. In his opinion, a smaller specialized supermarket of 30,000 could compete at the center of the 15 bigger chains already within a 2.5-mile radius.

The next meeting on the project is set for Sept. 24.

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