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COURTESY PLANNING DEPARTMENT
The site would include a plaza and nearly 4,000 square feet of retail space along with the 74 apartments.

BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

Plans for a five-story, 74-unit apartment building on the former Hahnes parking lot moved forward last week as architect Bruce Stieve went over the design with the Planning Board.

Board members at the Oct. 5 meeting expressed concern with the design overall, and that the eight affordable units would not be the same size as the market-rate units. 

Although the Township Council in 2018 approved a 20-percent affordable housing quota for any new development, the council through the redevelopment agreement for the lot is recommending 10 percent. 

The 0.84-acre Church Street site currently is a private parking lot with 102 spaces. Bijou Properties of Hoboken purchased the property last October.

Plans presented by 65 Church Street Urban Renewal LLC’s architect include a 2,773-square-foot plaza and a small arcade along its western side. The project includes 3,936 square feet of retail space and 74 apartments: one studio, four junior/one-bedrooms, 30 one-bedrooms, 35 two-bedrooms, and four three-bedrooms. The eight affordable units include one studio, five two-bedrooms and two three-bedrooms.   

A two-level parking deck will house the required 112 parking spaces, broken down into 82 residential, 10 retail and 20 public spots required through the redevelopment agreement.

Four on-street parking spaces and one pickup/drop-off space will also be provided on Church Street.

The façade will contain white Norman brick, stucco and dark zinc metal panels on the top two floors, with the retail space featuring aluminum and glass windows and doors. Board member Carmel Loughman called the design “bland,” however. Stieve said that the design could be updated somewhat, as Historic Preservation Commission members had also “asked for more in the design.”

The plaza will provide an active public space to complement the open space of the two neighboring houses of worship, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair and Christ Church.

After leaders voiced concerns that the building would overshadow and block sunlight from coming through the church windows, the plans now call for 10-foot step-backs starting on the fourth floor.

“The massing conceived was three smaller-scale brick volumes,” said Stieve, describing how the building is actually three boxes. Stieve is also the architect for Lackawanna redevelopment.

The second floor and rooftop will contain common terraces, and the second-floor two-bedroom apartments on the western side would have private terraces. 

Planner Janice Talley pointed out that the affordable units did not seem to be comparable in size to the market-rate units. Making the affordable units larger would be difficult, said the developer’s attorney, Cameron MacLeod, due to the size of the overall property. Talley suggested that the square footage of the apartments be provided in the future. The developer was also asked to come back with a 3-D film of the building.     

The developer is expected to pay the town $175,000 to improve parking conditions at existing public lots, and will be required to submit a shared-parking analysis as part of the site plan application.

The lot was once dedicated for parking for the nearby now-closed Hahne’s department store, which shut down in 1989. The store was replaced by the Siena apartments in 2007, which was part of the Hahne’s Redevelopment Plan. 

The 74-unit Church Street development will be the final part of the plan.

Proposals for the property have included a hotel and an assisted living facility.