BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The Seymour Street project next to the Wellmont Theater, with its promise to make Montclair an even bigger cultural destination than it already is, is set to open in early winter after two years of construction.
Construction is reaching an end, and the developers last week announced the leasing of retail space, which will include an art school, rock-climbing gym and medical group.
The $135 million project, which broke ground in December 2018, consists of two buildings, six and seven stories in height, and is being developed by the partnership of Ironstate Development Co. and Brookfield Properties on 2.5 acres at Bloomfield Avenue and Seymour Street.
It will feature 200 residential units, retail and office space, an area for art, public parking and a pedestrian plaza. Part of the project’s goal is to create an arts and entertainment district anchored by the Wellmont.
The six-story building, at 2 South Willow, will feature the rental apartments, 28,000 square feet of street-level retail space, 224 parking spaces and 10,000 square feet of space available for rental by artists.
The seven-story building, at 1 Seymour Plaza, will rise just southwest of the Wellmont and will include 40,000 square feet of office space and 210 parking spaces.
In addition, a former portion of Seymour Street, next to the Wellmont, will be converted into the Wellmont Arts Plaza, a 12,000-square-foot pedestrian space, with access to the retail stores and the theater’s box office. The plaza is designed to have outdoor seating and art installations, and the plan is for it to play host to open-air performances and other events.
The project also includes a five-story, 315-space municipal parking garage at the intersection of Glenridge Avenue and North Willow Street.
Businesses scheduled to open in early 2021 include One River School and The Gravity Vault, at 2 South Willow, and Summit Medical Group in two full floors at 1 Seymour Plaza.
The Gravity Vault, a massive rock-climbing gym, has 10 locations, with five more — including the one in Montclair — set to open next year.
One River School began in 2012, the brainchild of School of Rock founder Matt Ross, with a mission to “transform art education.”
The company, which currently has 13 schools in six states, developed what Ross terms a “proprietary method” for teaching a wide variety of art and digital programs to students of all ages, “as creative skills are now in greater demand than ever before.”
“One River School, The Gravity Vault, and Summit Medical Group will complement the dynamic lineup of arts, entertainment, fitness and community services we’re curating to echo Montclair’s unique character and appeal,” said David Barry, CEO of Hoboken-based Ironstate Development Co.
“Montclair is well known for tastefully blending local merchants with high-profile brands, and we plan on partnering with businesses who share our vision for community-building, a desire to enhance residents’ daily lives, and will attract new visitors to the township.”
The apartments will be available for leasing in the winter of 2021, said Dennis Giuliano, Vice President of Development at Ironstate Development Company. More leasing dedicated for arts and entertainment uses will also be opening up.
“The development partners are in active discussions with other arts and entertainment users for the balance of that space,” Giuliano said.
Summit Medical Group is expected to begin its build-out at 1 Seymour Plaza by the end of this year.
The Wellmont Arts Plaza is expected to be completed by early summer 2021.
The project will provide parking relief for area residents, who are lamenting the loss of two public parking lots – totaling 100 spots in a congested neighborhood – to make way for the new buildings. The South Willow Street parking lot closed in August 2018, while the South Fullerton lot closed in early September 2018.
Public parking will be available at the new Seymour and Willow streets parking lots.
The garages will accommodate transient, paid hourly and monthly parking. Monthly parking passes are already available at firstname.lastname@example.org, Giuliano said.
In January 2018, the Township Council approved an agreement allowing for the mixed-use project, but with the condition that the developers deliver a parking facility along with it to replace the loss of the two municipal lots. That five-deck parking facility will be on Glenridge Avenue.
Once it is built, the deck will be owned by the town, which will keep the parking revenues. In exchange, the township turned over the 0.6-acre South Willow parking lot to the developers. The development partners are working in conjunction with the township on a start date for the deck, Giuliano said.
Although most of the $8 million to $9 million construction cost to build the Glenridge Avenue garage will be picked up by the developer, there could be some construction costs for the town, but that cost is capped at $1.2 million.
At the heart of the project is the Wellmont Theater, which was purchased by Pinnacle Companies in 2015. It opened in 1922 as a venue for vaudeville and stage plays and began operating as a movie theater in 1929.
In 2008 the theater underwent a major renovation and became the area’s largest live concert venue, with a capacity of 2,500 people, but closed during the pandemic.
In September, when the governor permitted the reopening of theaters at 25-percent capacity, Wellmont General Manager Anthony Morrison said that the venue would remain closed for now. The developers are not concerned with the Wellmont’s temporary closure.
“Ownership is taking a long-term view on the district which far outweighs the short-term challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Giuliano said.
Montclair Center BID Executive Director Jason Gleason said he wasn’t surprised that the developers had secured such “exciting tenants.”
In spite of the pandemic, “we have leases being signed all over the district,” Gleason said.
Giuliano said they are “excited to have secured strong commercial tenants in this market and are confident that there will be additional interest from other complementary providers who want to be a part of this project and the greater Montclair community.”