By David Greenbaum, Caroline Kane Levy and John Reimnitz
David Greenbaum, a design professional, and architect John Reimnitz are Montclair residents and members of the town Historic Preservation Commission. Caroline Kane Levy, a Montclair resident, is deputy director of preservation with the New York Landmarks Commission.
The Lackawanna redevelopment proposal hearing continues on Jan. 14. The developer is proposing 154 units of housing, retail, medical building and supermarket for the property that houses the historic Lackawanna Train Station. The developer also wants to raze the mall area which houses the former train waiting platforms.
Lackawanna Station was the genesis of Montclair and the archetype for the satellite urban suburb community made possible by rail transportation.
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Designed by an award-winning architect in 1913 and greeted with great celebration by the community — including Thomas Edison, who provided the advanced concrete that supports the station today — the station building was nationally recognized at its opening for its outstanding architectural character.
The Montclair Lackawanna Train Station was the terminus of the train line.
Today the Montclair Lackawanna Station remains fully preserved and in place and maintains 100 percent of its historical integrity. The Montclair Lackawanna Station is a National, State and local registered/designated Historic Landmark. It is situated in a designated Montclair Historic District.
The train station, thoughtfully adapted for reuse in the 1980s by a foremost authority in Historic Preservation Architecture, Richard Blinder of the esteemed New York firm, Beyer Binder Belle Architects, Blinder a Montclair resident for 30 years. Richard Blinder and his firm were responsible for the preservation of Grand Central Station, Ellis Island, The Apollo Theater, The Beacon Theater, Lincoln Center and countless other major architectural projects worldwide.
Montclair’s own community advocates as members of Historic Preservation Commission has made clear their rejection of the plan as proposed and has memorialized same on multiple occasions. Each of these commissioners are qualified, architecturally literate professionals and fellow town residents whose interests are aligned entirely with those of their fellow Montclair neighbors. It is the firm, qualified belief that demolition of the train station is unnecessary and severely detrimental to the interests of the town.
The Architectural Advisor of the Planning Board, Barton Ross AIA,has clearly and strongly advised against the plan as proposed.
The developers’s expert witnesses have claimed the station is not historic. They have further claimed that the station has lost it its architectural integrity. It is the consensus of all opposing experts and witnesses that this is clearly not the case.
National experts in supermarket design have made it clear that the existing train station would be viable, desirable and attractive space for a grocery tenant.
Presentations have been made that demonstrate viable alternative plans to Pinnacle’s Plan that preserves and celebrates the train station as a viable space to house a grocery.
The interior space of the former train sheds is absolutely extraordinary. Three parallel cathedral-like glass enclosed atriums supported by wide column spacing of approximately 20’ x 40” provide expansive, glorious naturally lit space that is entirely viable for a grocer. The existing Pathmark building, built in the 1980’s is no more viable and substantially less attractive.
The alternative plan proposed has been suggested allowing for significantly better circulation and activation an all 4 streets fronts, embracing and enriching the entire intersection of major thoroughfares.
Countless examples of repurposing historic structures include Faneuil Hall in Boston; The High Line, South Street Seaport and Chelsea Market in New York, Covent Gardens in London, The Reading Market in Philadelphia, The Ferry Building and Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco, the Cleveland Market and the North Market in Columbus, Ohio, and countless others.
The developer is the same developer who built the Siena, The Valley & Bloom, The New Hotel and has begun construction on the Seymour Street property packaged as an “Arts District.” There will only be a minute percentage of the project allocated for Art use.
The developer has no identified tenant, grocery or otherwise who has committed to leasing the property regardless of form factor.
The developer is seeking a variance for an approximately 50 percent reduction in parking spaces required by Township Ordinance as well as Supermarket parking standards (5 spaces per Thousand Square feet of Retail).
The developer proposes the construction of a parking lot extending in excess of 371 feet, significantly deeper and greater in set back than big box stores on Route 46 and Route 10.
This is your town and your Planning Board, as appointed by our mayor, Robert Jackson. These representatives are to protect the present and long term interests of your town. Please let them know your thoughts.