By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The nonprofit groups that feared losing their home at 11 Pine St. can now remain, Montclair Township officials say.
In September, Sister to Sister, Brother to Brother, Succeed2gether and Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (S.O.F.I.A.) were told they had to vacate their office space in the Bay Street Station residences by Nov. 30 due to the sale of the property by owner Lincoln Property Company.
Township attorney Ira Karasick told the council on Oct. 19 however, that the new owners have committed to a new lease with the township, which in turn rents the space free of charge to the four groups. The agreement will stand for the life of an ongoing payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan, which remains in effect for another 16 years, Karasick said.
Since 2012, the organizations have been able to use the 6,000-square-foot space free of charge under an agreement between the township and the owner of the building. The Bay Street area redevelopment, which was fully completed in 2017, consisted of a new train station, a parking deck and 163 apartments on land owned by NJ Transit, the township and private owners.
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A 2001 redevelopment plan states that the redeveloper was to provide Montclair Township with up to 14,000 square feet of floor space in the redevelopment area, at no cost, but didn’t lay out a timeline for the township’s use of the space, Karasick has said. But subsequent agreements did, and the township’s lease expired in 2017, he said. The owner allowed the groups to stay in place in a month-to-month agreement, he has said.
On Oct. 19, the Montclair Township Council voted unanimously on a first reading of a measure to transfer the financial agreement from Lincoln Property to new owners Montclair 11 Pine Urban Renewal, and with it, the agreement for the lease. The township’s transfer of the financial agreement is the last piece needed before the new owners could close, Karasick said. The council will give a final vote at a second reading on Nov. 1.
“The new owners have been very cooperative to maintain the status [of the 11 Pine Street lease],” Karasick said.
Sister to Sister hosts programs and mentors girls, mostly from the Fourth Ward, in fourth through 12th grade. It also opens its computer room in the Pine Street building on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Brother to Brother mentors young men in the same regard. Succeed2gether, which provides enrichment and academic programs to children in need. S.O.F.I.A provides domestic violence victims and survivors with assistance.
Sister to Sister board member Evelyn Gay called into the Sept. 21 Township Council meeting asking for the council’s help, noting that the space was within walking distance to most of the group’s girls’ homes.
Tamisa Covington, board president of S.O.F.I.A, told the council it’s important that the groups remain in the space because they work collaboratively.
Councilman David Cummings said the location has been a great resource for community groups that do good work for the township.
“Succeed2gether is deeply grateful to the Montclair Council, the mayor, the town attorney as well as the new owners of 11 Pine St. for negotiating a lease that allows S2G and its partners to continue providing hundreds of Montclair families with critical services and programs,” Marcia Marley, president and executive director of Succeed2gether, said after the Oct. 19. vote.
Montclair 11 Pine Urban Renewal LLC is owned by Montclair Residences JV LLC.
Montclair Residences is mostly owned by an affiliate of Cigna Corporation, but 10% of it is owned by Mill Creek Residential trust LLC.