By LINDA MOSS
Montclair developer Steven Plofker won township approval Monday night to transform the site of the former Diva Lounge into a combination retail and multi-family development, adding a six-story building at the rear of the property for apartments.
At its meeting the Township Planning Board voted 7-0 to grant Plofker the four variances he needed to proceed with the so-called adaptive reuse of 369-371 Bloomfield Ave. However, in granting the approval several board members warned that this should mark the end of high-rise construction on or near Bloomfield Avenue in that end of downtown.
“I think we’re reaching the limits of the tall buildings in our downtown area,” Board Chair John Wynn said. “We anticipated there that would be a need for this when we were doing the [Township] Master Plan, but it certainly wasn’t anticipated without limitations. And I think we’re getting there.”
Board member Martin Schwartz also raised objections to the height of the additional building at the site, but noted that it was recently permitted by the township.
Both Wynn and Schwartz agreed that a mixed-use development replacing a long-empty building will boost the business district.
“The overall plan I think it is attractive,” Wynn said. “It will improve the neighborhood. I’m voting for approval.”
Plofker’s project, revised from the site plan he presented earlier this year, calls for the restoration of the two-story building, constructed in the 1920s, at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and North Willow Street that most recently housed the Diva Lounge night club. That building, which will be restored with some features like its facade brought back to their original look, has been vacant for about eight years. Plofker will construct a six-story residential building behind it.
The development will have 11 apartments in total, as well as 3,569 square feet of retail along Bloomfield and North Willow, as well as some parking. Several residential units will be located in the former Diva Lounge building, but most of the apartments will be in the new high-rise structure.
Plofker, who was at the meeting and was represented by attorney Alan Trembulak, received the various variances that he needed from the board. He doesn’t have to provide a loading zone on the property; he only has to supply 19 parking spaces instead of the 40 required by township ordinances; and he was allowed a six-foot rear setback instead of the required 10 feet.
In addition, Plofker agreed to provide two affordable housing units at another site near the Diva Lounge property in order to fulfill the township’s requirements. But the Montclair Housing Commission will have to sign off on that.
Plofker also agreed work with the board’s Revisions Committee and the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission on the finishes for his development.
At Monday’s meeting, the third hearing on the application, Trembulak called his final witness, land-use planner Christine Nazzaro Cofone of the Cofone Consulting Group in Red Bank.
Before the vote, Board Member Carmel Loughman said, “I think this building’s exciting. It will bring a lot of attention to the area. It fits in with the other buildings being built. So I 100 percent support it.”
Check back for more details on this developing story.