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The Barbara Eclectic shop and the Four Seasons Kabab House are tenants at 594 Valley Road, a two-building structure that will undergo a major renovation. An L-shaped rear building will be torn down to make way for a two-story building that will have six small apartments. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

A landmark building on Valley Road, a bakery decades ago, is getting a major renovation that will include a multifamily dwelling, which will have the first affordable-housing unit in Upper Montclair.

A developer on Wednesday night won approval, in a 7-0 vote, from the Township Zoning Board of Approval to undertake a major overhaul of 594 Valley Road, whose retail tenants include the Barbara Eclectic shop, which opened in 1975, and the Four Seasons Kebab House.

The property includes a two-story building in front and a one-story L-shaped building in the rear, which now has two retail tenants and faces a parking lot. The site includes the Montclair Mews, which will remain and permits pedestrians to cut across from Valley Road to the Upper Montclair Plaza parking lot off Bellevue Avenue.

The property’s owner, Paul Zimmerman of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, plans to demolish the rear building and replace it with with a three-story structure that would have six small apartments, including one affordable one. Zimmerman’s attorney David Owen, told the zoning board that would be the first affordable housing unit in Upper Montclair, the First Ward.

During the four-hour hearing, which ended close to midnight, Owen and the board went back and forth on the issue of whether or not the project should have the parking required by township ordinance for the new apartment dwellers and debated whether millennials in Montclair have or want cars. In the end, the board gave Zimmerman dispensation on the parking, but required him to arrange to secure parking permits for some tenants.

In approving the project, the board cited the affordable housing unit as a benefit to the township and the fact that site’s face-lift will be a vast improvement over the property’s current look.

During the hearing architect Paul Sionas described how the facade of the front building on Valley Road would be spruced up, with its original brick exposed, and returned to some of its former glory. An existing apartment in the front building will be replaced by a medical-use tenant, Sionas said.

Built in 1927, a building at 594 Valley Road was once a bakery. COURTESY PAUL SIONAS

The property, built in 1927, was initially Markers Bakery, with the retail store in the front building on Valley Road and the rear building serving as the area where the actual baking was done.

The new building in the rear will have the same footprint as the old one in order to preserve the Mews, according to Sionas.

A rendering of the rear retail space, facing the Upper Montclair Plaza parking lot, that would be created at a new three-story building at 594 Valley Road. COURTESY PAUL SIONAS

Owen called not only Sionas but Zimmerman and planner Peter Steck at Wednesday’s hearing.

The first floor of the new three-story building will have retail space that faces the parking lot, with an entrance there and large glass windows. Right now that area has just the unadorned backs of buildings, and the new retail space will make the area look more attractive, Owen said.

Check back for more on this developing story.