By Jaimie Julia Winters
Two supermarket chains are now interested in opening up in the redeveloped Lackawanna Plaza, according to developer Brian Stolar.
Continuing 10 months of testimony, the planning board heard from Stolar Monday night, as well as other experts, about the proposal to build a 154-housing unit, grocery store, medical office, restaurant and retail development by Pinnacle and Hampshire Companies for the former Lackawanna Plaza Train Station and Pathmark on Bloomfield Avenue.
The updated plans reduced the grocery store to 45,496 square feet and reconfigured the rear loading area on Glenridge Avenue allowing for more truck maneuvering room. Stolar said the two interested parties were either looking at 30,000- or 40,000 -square-foot stores. Due to negotiations and planning board approval, Stolar would not reveal the potential tenants. Hampshire has invested and leased properties to other grocers, including ShopRite in Wallington.
In addition, an approximate 1,800 square feet of space located behind the Pig & Prince restaurant has been delineated as a fast-food eatery with 72 seats, said the developer’s engineer Kevin Webb. There is no current tenant interest, he added. The parking requirement for 72 seats is 36 spaces.
Amended plans for the train platforms and mall area created in the 1980s, which historic preservationists would like to see saved, call for 82 of the 98 steel train platform stanchions or columns to be saved. Three rows of stanchions would remain in place, with the first two rows used as decorative fixtures left uncovered in the parking lot. The third would maintain its roof and some of the skylights, to be used over the pedestrian walkway, and would be incorporated into the front of the store and other stores to the west.
Architect Bruce Stieve said that keeping all of the stanchions would reduce parking. He also claimed that potential supermarket tenants have said keeping the stanchions roofed would block the view to the storefront.
Some of the columns would be repurposed throughout the property, including for use in the bus shelter.
Saving the stanchions also depends on what is found during excavation, as concrete was poured over the bases of the columns to create the mall floor in the 1980s, and will have to be removed to create new grading.
“We don’t know the condition of each stanchion until they start excavation. The goal is that it be done carefully… Where it’s practical we will save them,” said Stieve, adding columns that need replacement would be replicated.
The historic horse trough will be brought back to its original state and will be relocated to a courtyard in front of the Pig & Prince. That area will contain a fountain and brass plaques relaying the history of the station.
Concerned with the area directly behind the Pig & Prince, resident Frank Rubacky told the board and the developer that the architectural renderings and schematics were incomplete. He claimed the area is historical, while the developer said it lost its historical value as part of the 1980 renovations.
“You are forming opinions without knowing the building,” Rubacky said.
Board member Martin Schwartz and chairman John Wynn agreed that a historical inventory of the buildings was still needed from the developer.
“We need to know what was affected and what was not affected by the 1980 change,” said Wynn.
While 859 parking spots (with TD Bank) are required by statute for the entire project, the developer is requesting an adjusted allowance of 459 spaces, based on shared-parking plan model that utilizes a parking management company and valet parking.
The breakdown of those 459 spots include 230 for the residential lot in the east side of the area, where TD Bank is also located, 130 under the building and 100 in the lot. The supermarket lot to the west would have 199 spaces, while a lot in front of a medical center on Lackawanna Plaza would have 30.
The plan also relies on the closeness of mass transit which, experts contend, means some of the potential residents of the development will not own cars, and shoppers and diners walking to the site.
Valet parking, with up to five ProPark employees, would be offered from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and maybe Saturday if needed. Whether the valet would entail a fee has not been decided.
Peak times for parking would be weekdays from 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Saturdays around 7 p.m. parking expert Carl Pehke said.
“There’s sufficient supply, but we need to manage that supply,” Pehke said.
The 47 expected employees of the retail, medical office, grocer and restaurant would be required to park in the residential lot to the east. Pehke also contends enough parking in the east lot would be available for residential visitors, as well.
Parking in the supermarket lot would be monitored by ProPark for a two-hour turnover.
There will be six handicap parking spots, two in front of the restaurant and four near the supermarket entrance. Two spaces will be set aside for customer pickup, one for a food delivery van and two for rideshare or taxi parking. There will be a total of seven cart corrals.
The Lackawanna lot in front of the medical building would offer both self-parking and a valet, with cars being parked in the residential lot. The fast food restaurant entrance would face this lot.
But resident Dave Greenbaum questioned the plan, which proposes 400 spaces fewer than what is required by code, and fewer than the state’s requirement of 1.5 spaces for each two-bedroom unit. He noted the current parking problems cited by both residents and visitors, and the increase in other development within the township.
“Are we to suspend our common sense? Is this reasonable?” Greenbaum asked.
He asked if there was a mechanism to enforce the developer in maintaining valet and parking management services down the road, to which Wynn answered no.
Discussions on Lackawanna Plaza will continue at the Planning Board’s next meeting, set for Monday, Dec. 3.