By Kelly Nicholaides
for Montclair Local
On the busy intersection of Grove and Walnut streets in Montclair’s Fourth Ward, the area is dotted with F. Paul Kaveny Field, mom-and-pop eateries, a small insurance company, podiatrist office, dry cleaner and homes.
A mixture of office and retail space will replace the Grove Car Wash, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and a home at 111-113 Grove and 116 Walnut. Developer Steven Plofker told township officials last month that he envisioned restaurants as potential tenants on the ground level.
However, residents say a supermarket or grocery store is essentially more functional for the Fourth Ward’s needs. “The middle class and poor go to Upper Montclair by Valley Road to King’s supermarket or we go to Brookdale ShopRite in Bloomfield,” said Willowdale Avenue resident Eileen Leepow. “Sometimes we use local gas station convenience stores [to buy groceries].”
A resident of Montclair for four decades, Leepow says it costs her $10 for an Uber or $20 for a taxi to get to the closest supermarket.
Coming from the Walnut Street Train Station half a block away, Kristena Grant indicated that a grocery store would be ideal for the site. “It would be good because we lost the Pathmark at Lackawanna in 2013. We need a grocery store for this area,” Grant said.
At Panzano Pizzeria-Trattoria, owner John Latona is optimistic about changes to the site across the street. He says his business has been in operation for six years and caters mostly to the take-out crowd. Latona is not worried about competition from restaurants that could open on the site.
“It’s good for Walnut Street businesses to have competition with other areas such as Church Street in Montclair. There are hundreds of businesses in this town. This is where the tough survive,” Latona said. “If you can make it in Montclair or Hoboken, you can make it anywhere in New Jersey.”
On July 18, the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved site plans for Walnut Grove Partners, LLC & Greenwood Partners, LLC to transform the addresses at 111-113 Grove St. and 63 Walnut St.
Paul Sionas, site architect, presented plans for a two-story building, 28 feet in height, with 8,550 square feet on each floor and a 50-space parking lot. Eight spaces will be located in the front of the building on Grove Street and blocked by a wall. The retail space will be housed on the first floor, with office space on the second floor. A pedestrian plaza, along the southeast end of the property’s corner, will have an outdoor cafe seating for a possible restaurant.
On Aug. 15, the board adopted the resolution allowing for the demolition and construction.
Some area residents are worried about traffic and pedestrian safety in the heavy traffic area. The county lowered the speed limit on Grove Street recently to 30 miles per an hour.
“I think the area is too busy for it,” said Susie Park, owner of Grace Cleaners. “I’m here since 2000 and have seen a lot of accidents on this corner, sometimes weekly.”
At the July meeting, traffic expert Cory Chase agreed to creating a triangular median at the Grove Street ingress/egress points so only right turns would be possible. The adjustment was due to concerns of southbound traffic snarls on Grove Street into the parking lot area.