By LINDA MOSS
Saying he wants “to keep their feet to the fire,” Mayor Robert Jackson is inviting the developers of the controversial Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment project to the May 23 Township Council meeting for a report on their progress.
The mayor announced his intention at Tuesday’s council conference meeting, just two days after about two dozen demonstrators marched down Bloomfield Avenue to protest the delay by the developers, Pinnacle Cos. of Montclair and Hampshire Cos. of Morristown, in replacing the closed Pathmark at the Lackawanna center.
That supermarket was shuttered in November 2015, and it would likely take at least two years to get a new one built as part of the redevelopment. The developers are talking to ShopRite as the potential anchor tenant.
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The developers have proposed a mixed-use complex anchored by a large grocery store, which would be topped by several floors of residential units, on the plot of land where the Lackawanna shopping center sits now. There would also be apartments built on the other side of Grove Street, where there is now an open parking lot.
“I think we have to keep their feet to the fire,” Jackson said, referring to Pinnacle and Hampshire.
A spokesman for Brian Stolar, Pinnacle’s president and chief executive, said on Wednesday that representatives of his company and Hampshire will come to the council meeting.
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville asked Jackson the purpose of having the developers report to the council, since they are already before several township bodies. Both the Township Planning Board’s redevelopment subcommittee and the township’s Economic Development Committee have meetings this week on the project, for example, Baskerville said.
After those two meetings, the developers “should have a clearer picture” of the status of the project, according to the mayor.
“Then we could have a message that says we as a redevelopment agency, this is what we want, build a redevelopment plans around that, period,” Jackson said. “People want to redesign Bloomfield Avenue. It’s not going to happen. Let’s get it done. What I’m hoping we’ll get out of it is a clear direction. ”
The councilwoman also pointed out that it was only in February that the council informed the developers that it had decided not to relocate its municipal complex and police headquarters to the Lackawanna redevelopment site, freeing the real estate firms to proceed without any uncertainty.
“I don’t want people to leave here and then think there’s a need to point blame at the developers for not moving forward,” Baskerville said. “We know they are doing something.”
Third Ward Councilman Sean Spiller said that the issue about the redevelopment has not been the supermarket, but rather the density of housing that Pinnacle and Hampshire want to put there. They have proposed 350 units.