By Tina Pappas
for Montclair Local
Plans for Hackensack University Medical Center/Mountainside Hospital’s 45,735-square-foot medical office building on Bay Avenue and a parking lot on Walnut Crescent met with the approval of the Montclair and Glen Ridge planning boards on April 23.
The office building will replace the nursing school presently on the site located across from the hospital.
Both boards gave their unanimous consent after a hearing and continued testimony on architecture and traffic impact, including engineering details held at the Montclair Fire Department headquarters.
Allen Kopelson, site architect, presented some more details on the proposed three-story, 42-feet-high medical office building including the front entrance area design. Plans call for paneling above the front entrance doorway that would match the building’s red brick tone along with a nine-foot canopy extending above the driveway, supported by pillars. The design was agreeable to John Wynn, Montclair Planning Board chair, who had requested more detail from Kopelson regarding the building’s facade.
Corey Chase, traffic engineer, said a new traffic signal will be installed to improve circulation at the entrance area connecting Walnut Crescent and Bay Avenue on the Montclair side. Traffic impact would be remain the same as the dimensions of the medical office building are at 45,000 square feet compared to the nursing school which is 65,000 square feet. Additional left-turn lanes for roadway approaches on Walnut Crescent and Bay Avenue to improve traffic are expected to ease traffic flow.
Robyn Fields, Glen Ridge planning board member, suggested a pedestrian crosswalk along Bay Avenue. Chase said it was safer to concentrate crossings at signalized intersections, but said the request would be considered at later date and would need county approval.
Carmel Loughlin, planning board member, suggested a four-way stop sign at Walnut Street, Walnut Crescent and Roswell Terrace.
“They consistently blow through that stop sign,” she said.
Chase said the problem should be dealt with by law enforcement and that a four-way stop sign would result in more traffic volume.
Loughlin also suggested a crosswalk at the Claremont Avenue and Walnut Crescent intersection as it provided “a natural path.” Chase said her request would be considered.
Brad Boehler, site engineer, presented a slew of revisions suggested at the previous hearing. Among them, the placement of a fence that would run along the parking spaces. Shrubs would be planted between the sidewalk, parking lot and the fence.
Janice Talley, municipal planner, said it would encourage the pedestrians to follow the crosswalks and sidewalks. The addition of 7-foot evergreen trees would also be provided in designated areas. The proposed pocket park in the George and Sherwood Street area would be bench-free in order to discourage loitering. A path would be included for hospital employees who would traverse from the parking lot area to the hospital in an east/west direction.
Jennifer Stoughton, of Philadelphia Signs, presented revised signage for the development, that focused on a higher level of visibility to reflect the building’s design, streetscape and other conditions. Directional signs would be monument-styled and double-sided to achieve clear visibility to both pedestrians and motorists. The standard post signs would list parking facility information.
Several conditions stipulated in the project’s approval consist of a Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) review, which relates to sufficient funding for the project. Other items include limiting hours for sanitation pick-up, marking of trees that are to be saved and policing of the area by the hospital’s security. The developer would also have to secure Essex County’s approval for the new traffic signal on Bay Avenue. The applicant will be required to submit a final comprehensive site plan showing all modifications and confirming compliance pertaining to the redevelopment plan.