Return trips to Lackawanna Station for Planning Board

The supermarket designer says using train sheds “ would be gorgeous”….it’s time for this developer to finally do something great for Montclair’s downtown.

The Planning Board’s recent Lackawanna Plaza July 23 (next is Aug. 6) hearing showed that it’s clearly a lack of developer interest, creativity and design expertise with historic buildings that continues to delay bringing a supermarket back to this space. He has ignored our Planning Board chairman’s request to work with the Board’s preservation architect and Historic Preservation Commission experts to finalize a design that would be approved.  This developer’s plan remains consistent….demolition.

Other local developers propose more appropriate initial designs for Montclair’s historic neighborhoods and assets so only details have to be addressed by boards and projects are approved smoothly. Instead, this developer continues to make claims about what won’t work and about excessive retrofit costs that were shown to be illogical when questioned.  Any decision is still under review since the developer has other testimonies to present including a historian he sought out who is willing to discredit Montclair’s iconic 1913 Lackawanna station’s historic designation, including its listings on the local, state and national historical registries.

Questions from Planning Board members showed they were not blindly buying the developer’s statements and those of his representatives about what is possible. The board hired their own supermarket design firm who testified about what can be done with the site and stated that building a supermarket under the sheds…“would be gorgeous.” He believed a smaller sized market would actually be more profitable and successful within this highly competitive supermarket area given rapidly changing food buying habits. This consultant also suggested the Planning Board hire their own market research analyst to determine the best size and type of market for Montclair’s hybrid urban-suburban location. 

Two supermarket industry consultants have now testified—one was the developer’s own location analyst not a store designer. Both effectively agreed that an open store interior could be used to preserve the station’s original train shed metal stanchions. Further, that this unique design could become a magnet for wider area customer draw, pulling them away from their current grocers, for an exceptional shopping experience here. With the right expertise and motivation, our downtown can be an affordable grocer in an exciting and welcoming setting.

To be fair, it is not an easy project to do because there is a difference in elevations within the mall. Parking is always a problem to be dealt with for any Montclair development. Residents and boards were thrilled when this third site plan proposed much smaller scale development and most historic station elements were preserved but it was not immediately clear that two thirds of  the train sheds would not be.

He owns and is developing all larger properties in town: the coming 8.5 story hotel; the six and seven story Seymour Street project with several buildings as well as Lackawanna Plaza. The Seymour project also required the township to virtually force the developer to ultimately create a design that worked with our local character. By building here, he is significantly benefiting from Montclair tax payers and our visitors by building in town. It’s time to give back.

When actual plans are presented we too often only see oversized bulky buildings and attempts to justify too little parking. Maybe its time to put their money where their mouth is in this town. Maybe Montclair is due for a give back from this developer, a great supermarket built under the sheds and an attractive development to enhance our downtown by opening Toney’s Brook.

Lastly, preserving our historic nature is preserving economic value and why developers want to build here. Maintaining and creating open green space in town is a goal within the 2015 revised Master Plan approved by the Planning Board.

This is the only big chance to enhance the downtown. If you care enough to help and not just vent on social media, attend or communicate at planning meetings and with elected officials using email or during public comments at the Council Conference meetings. Find contact information and meeting schedules on the town site.

Linda Cranston

Montclair

The writer is the founder of SaveMontclair, an organization dedicating to saving the “historic charm and small-town character” of Montclair, according to its website.

 

Stop 3D-printed firearms

As a movement fighting for gun violence prevention at every level of government from local and federal level, we confront a new challenge: Do-it-yourself, downloadable gun blueprints, many of which are made out of plastic, and are therefore invisible to metal detectors. The State Department is planning a special exemption, letting the company Defense Distributed release online blueprints for these guns. These types of “ghost guns” have been tested and deemed “viable killing weapon[s]” by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. At the moment, it is legal to make this type of firearm if several pieces of metals are included, though they can be easily removed. However, as of Aug.1, that will no longer be a requirement.

Therefore, people who cannot pass a background check to buy a firearm, such as terrorists, domestic abusers, and other violent criminals will be able to download and print an untraceable, unregistered firearm with no serial number, posing an immense new challenge to law enforcement when they need to investigate gun-related crimes.

After being pressured by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would “take a look” at this issue. Although defense distributed was initially barred from distributing such blueprints, after a long legal battle, they reached a settlement allowing them to post designs for a variety of firearms, including the AR-15, a weapon regularly used by mass shooters, unless we take action. For this reason, we urge you to contact the State Department now and let them know you demand the safety of our communities and country be their top priority, and that they stop legalized distribution of 3D printed firearms.

Maria Eva Dorigo

Montclair

 

Thanks on a great MHS All-Class Reunion

A special letter of recognition and accolades should be given to the committee of the Montclair High All Class Reunion- what a great weekend they planned and hosted for the alumni from Montclair High School.

They have managed to capture in one weekend every two years all that makes Montclair special — an All Class Reunion — not for a specific decade or sport, but for the entire Montclair alumni. It’s an unbelievable feeling to walk into an event or park filled with people who all have one thing in common – that Mountie pride. You see it in all the blue tents set up with generations of families under them and wearing Mountie T-shirts, you see it as old friends find each other and hug, you see it as they line up to buy new Mountie T-shirts to bring home.

I look forward to this weekend every two years — it takes the committee that long to put together an event this large to celebrate a great town like Montclair. I have friends from far and wide come home just for this celebration of Montclair and all that makes it so special—San Diego, New Orleans, Miami, Chicago, Atlantic City and Philadelphia. The planning and discussion start on social media months in advance. This is a weekend that is easier and more (sometimes) enjoyable for so many to come for than the holidays. It’s just us, the way we all were when we were in high school, laughing and having fun and grabbing lunch on the avenue somewhere, most of our old teenage spots are gone such as Blimpie’s, Calabrese and Danny’s, but places like The Office (great after party) Tierney’s and Just Jake’s are still here and now we can actually have a seat at the bar.

We spend the usual time reminiscing like everyone does at a reunion, taking a tour of the high school, tracking down old friends, driving past our old house (mine’s gone now), but it’s still our hometown and we are glad to have everyone home for the weekend.

And now we get to see and meet the new Montclair. The Crosby that welcomed us for brunch, 18 Label St. that opened its doors for a fabulous welcome party, Yogi Berra Stadium for a baseball game, and of course, the place we are all celebrating for bringing us together in the first place, Montclair High. Friday night school tours and a Sunday service. Thank you to the local businesses old and new that welcomed back everyone and celebrated along with us. Those of us still local will see you in the next few weeks and months those who visit will see you again in two years.

Special accolades should also be given to the Montclair Parks & Rec., Sanitation and Police and Fire Departments, many of whom are not only graduates of Montclair High, but who worked the entire day of the Nishuane Park picnic to make sure everything was clean, safe and everyone felt welcomed.

The biggest thank you must go to Toi Blount, Robin Curry, Brendan Gill, Jimmy Eason and the rest of the All Calls Reunion Committee for a great weekend, for the vision and planning and especially for not reminding anyone that I am not only an Immaculate Conception High School graduate, but a Mountie because of my Montclair roots.  #mountiepride #lionpride #lovethatBlueandWhite.

Barbara P. Hughes

Montclair