Three years after the fire, and nearly a year since the NJ Transit selected a Little Falls developer for reconstruction of the Upper Mountain train station, the distressed site remains a mess. Soon after the announcement, expedient demolition of the fire-ravaged site cleared the area of unsightly rubble, leaving only the porte-cochere to anchor the station’s next reincarnation. Since then, not a new nail’s been hammered, there’s no sign of the new cafe-restaurant and commuters are still waiting under makeshift tents. How much longer will we be staring at ruins?
Dan Stessel at NJ Transit tells us NJT executed the lease agreement two weeks ago. “Next step is waiting for the construction drawings to come in for review and permitting. The developer anticipates possibly starting construction by the end of this year or early next year.”
When we quizzed town manager, Joe Hartnett, he was more forthcoming with the details:
My understanding is that to speed-up construction they are going to break it into two components: foundation construction and above-ground construction. The reason for this is that the State Historic Commission has agreed to delegate to the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission the review process to have a building of good historic representation. By splitting the work in two, the foundation can be under construction while the MHPC reviews the building plans. I understand that Notchwood wants to get moving ASAP so we’re hoping construction starts this summer.
As for the passage of time, the station situation has been a VERY complicated issue which involved a railroad, a leased station, numerous easement and access issues and technical issues, a private business, three levels of government, historic preservation agencies, seven different insurers and reinsurance companies, and too many lawyers representing all of these interests even to count. And the process was and is being managed by NJ Transit, the owner of the station, not by us. I believe Gerry Tobin has been doing a good job of keeping interested people informed via flyers, posters, etc. because we’ve received very few inquiries here over the past six months or so.
Finally, I discussed with NJT today complaints about the condition of the shelter and am also going up there personally to check on it.