By Jaimie Julia Winters
Lackawanna Plaza plans proposed by Pinnacle and the Hampshire Real Estate companies for a mixed-use development will be heard by the planning board on Monday, May 14.
The mixed-use project would transform the historic Lackawanna railroad station property into a multi-use development with 154 units of housing with a deck-top pool and garden and could include a supermarket. The nearly vacant shopping center property at one time housed a historic train station, and then in 1980s, a mall and Pathmark supermarket. It is now home to the Pig & Prince Restaurant and Pop-Eyes. Developers said the site’s current footprint would be maintained while keeping the historical aspects of the station, which opened in 1913. But plans to remove the sheds or train platforms that are currently encased in a glass atrium to make way for parking go against the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission mission to save the train sheds.
The train sheds were designed by the engineer Lincoln Bush, whose design allowed passengers to be protected from the elements while allowing the exhaust gases from locomotives to escape.
“Bush train sheds were built at five stations that I know, with Montclair station being the only one in a smaller city. Of the five, three remain and one of the three is deteriorated beyond restoration. The Montclair terminal train sheds, concourse and station building, along with the other improvements, represent a revolutionary and comprehensive advanced transportation complex design for its time. It is remarkable that the complex has survived the railroad’s merger, subsequent bankruptcy and first redevelopment relatively intact,” said historian Mark Corigliano, who lectures on the history of the Lackawanna Railroad.
At the last HPC meeting, member David Greenbaum said the fact that the sheds are still intact should not be negated.
“When it was re-purposed in the 1980s, glass atriums were built around those sheds. This should be respected. It should continued to be preserved,” said Greenbaum. He suggested instead the developers tear down the supermarket, which has no historical significance.
In reviewing Montclair’s criteria for demolition of a historic properties — Lackawanna Station was added to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in 1972, and the National Register of Historic Places the following year — member John Reimnitz said the sheds have cultural and historical significance.
Plans include re-purposing the steel beam archways of the sheds in the parking area as decorative details.
Residents suggested the sheds instead be kept intact and used as a food-court type market, art market or an amenity space with outdoor seating.
Board members forwarded a memo to the planning board stating that the commission finds the plans for demolition of the sheds inconsistent with Monclair’s code on demolition of historic properties and that the sheds met the criteria for retaining due to their historical significance.
The meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.