Eyesore on Bloomfield Avenue

BY  |  Wednesday, Aug 17, 2011 2:30pm  |  COMMENTS (17)

Some of us remember it as Americana Ironworks, a deep yard filled with cast-iron benches, planters, birdbaths and other assorted treasures. I was in fact a regular customer, with several planters and a birdbath to show for it.

In 2005, the property at 192-194 Bloomfield Ave. in Montclair (just east of Elm Street) was sold to developers, who began work cramming a condo building into the space that had once been a yard.

And then, about a year and a half ago, the project fell victim to the economic crisis. The almost-completed building has been standing vacant, surrounded by a chain link fence. “The developer went into foreclosure,” said Montclair Planning Director Janice Talley, who is trying to bring the building and the area nearby back to life. “The bank owns it. The developer obviously didn’t have the wherewithal to complete the project.” She says there is an investor who is interested in buying the building from the bank and completing it. “I’m trying to help him on my end to move it along.”

In June, the Montclair Times wrote about the creation of a planning board subcommittee that is trying to revive that section of town. Talley sent the planning board a memo — which township attorney Ira Karasick now says is privileged and will not allow Talley to release to Baristanet — about whether changes in zoning regulations could help.

The Ironworks Property as it looked before development, and a birdbath purchased there.

The area got Transit Village designation last summer, and the township got grant money for streetscape improvements and wayfaring signage. But, says Talley, the town is speaking to developers and considering zoning changes because “part of what Transit Village redevelopment is [about] is development.”

She adds, “I’m trying to create a more attractive appearance to this entrance to Montclair.”

Among the challenges is the fact that the area, directly behind the new Charles Bullock school, is the most crime-riddled section of town. In a 2009 interview with Baristanet, Montclair Police Chief David Sabagh identified the area between Willow Street and Mission Street as the epicenter of a summer surge in street crime, including a number of armed robberies. In 2008, the township eliminated the police substation at Lackawanna Plaza, which served this area.

“I know it’s an area where there have been some concerns about crime and safety,” Talley said. But she thinks that getting residential development directly on Bloomfield Ave. will help. “We don’t have any eyes on the street during evening hours.”

The story of the old American Ironworks property is a sad one. Michael Emrich, who owned the business, along with American Antiques (on the spot occupied by Trend Coffee House now), passed away in February at the untimely age of 49.

The taxpayer of record is Lackawanna Developers of 95 Cedar Lane in Englewood, but it doesn’t come up on a Google search and Aboudi Realty, which has its corporate offices at that address, knows nothing about the former tenant.

According to Montclair tax rolls, there are 11 condos at the 192-194 Bloomfield Ave. address, which are each being charged $1995 a year in taxes.

Ironically, Google Maps still has a picture of how the property looked before the building project began, but after the ironworks were cleared out. It was a magical place in its day.

 

 

17 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  August 17, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

    Too bad the project was abandoned.
    …especially since it looks like the developer tried to build something a bit better than the vinyl sided garbage we see with numbing repetition all over the Garden State.

  2. POSTED BY arrowsmithnj  |  August 17, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

    From my perch, the real tragedy is not the comatose patient on life support, but rather the building that predated the Ironworks building.

    There used to be a very old post and beam house/shop on the site, back when it was more of an antique yard than an ironmonger’s yard. And i think I remember a hair salon sign in the window before that.

    It was one of those little structures that you wish you could have been there for the dismantling so that you could take it to an open space and reassemble / reuse it. Or recycle the pieces etc.

    Does anyone know what became of the building?

  3. POSTED BY Cary Africk  |  August 17, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

    We are trying various “tools” to spur development, including the possibility of 5 year tax exemption/abatement for this property.

  4. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  August 17, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

    Don’t give the store away. Make sure the bank is paying the taxes and hassle them as much as legally possible about the appearance. Let THEM entice a buyer with THEIR money.

  5. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  August 17, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    Short term tax abatements have been extremely successful in NYC.
    See: J51 and 421 programs.

  6. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 17, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

    arrowsmithnj:
    There is a Queen Anne style building at 192 bloomfield, adjacent to the condo project at 194. I believe 192 is the building you reference. It is still there. It was built in 1885 as a rectory for st Mark’s Methodist Episcopal Church – the first African-American church in Montclair.
    The adjacent church was built in 1836 at 194 and destroyed by fire in 1947. A modern replacement structure was built in 1952 for an automobile service business.
    The preservation of 192 and the design of 194 was approved by the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission in mid-2006.

  7. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 17, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

    Have to disagree. A short-term tax abatement would not have any impact on this property, with these buildings, under these circumstances. It literally would only shift a portion of the bank’s cost to the taxpayers.

  8. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  August 17, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

    Perhaps so Frank. But if the incentive gets the building completed sooner, and on the tax rolls sooner, and rented sooner, the taxpayers will recoup. Right now the bank is probably paying taxes based on the property being little more than an empty lot.

  9. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 17, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

    Yes, ‘speed to market’ would be the only possible reason. However, you are assuming banks today are acting “rationally” and would be highly motivated to dump foreclosures… and any tax incentives would do that. Unfortunately, that is not the case right now. They have a bigger, national agenda and local, short term incentives are not a factor.
    Also, these are two separate lots. The bank has not moved on either one – probably because 194 provides the parking for 192. I suspect the 9 unit design is not viable, hence a developer wants to build a new building across the street.

  10. POSTED BY mojoe  |  August 17, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

    She[Tally] adds, “I’m trying to create a more attractive appearance to this entrance to Montclair.”

    I can’t help but think of that once attractive wooden signpost saying “Montclair” with the gold embossed letters, standing so proudly on the railroad bridge, as the official entrance to this town, and how it was allowed to become a neglected, crumbling eyesore these days. If that doesn’t speak volumes as an unattractive welcoming entrance.

  11. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 17, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

    As a “fill in” building on Bloomfield avenue…this building is just fine in my opinion. Bloomield Avenue cant afford any more holes in the street scape…like the ones where the automobile dealership ghostown is up the hill. BUT if you turn the corner onto Elm St…there is that new condo building that is …well…simply anti aestetic…

    Perhaps This 192-194 building seems like an eyesore because it is lifeless, but I don’t think it’s bad when you look at the new constructions around the corner.

    THANK GOD they didnt destroy the rectory like they did the Washington ST Y and the remains of the st Mark’s Methodist Episcopal Church cemetery (that the Y was built on)

  12. POSTED BY mojoe  |  August 18, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

    There’s no comparison to the buildings being torn down to what is now replacing them, when it come to aesthetics. The Farrell building was a perfect example of a jem that was so thoughlessly destroyed. Now to look at this area sickens me. “Ghostown” is a perfect description.

  13. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 18, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

    Ah the Farrell Building….that poor sweet little building…bashed…evidently they wanted another hole for the auto dealership ghostown.

    This morning I attended a service at Martins Funeral Home on Elm Street. Its great to see the house so well preserved, well maintained and solid. This was conceived to be the most remarkable and beautiful house in town. Julius Pratt who invented the name Montclair built it. Elm Street then was millionair’s mile before Upper Mountain Avenue was created. Pratt’s showhouse has hand carved wooden wisteria blossoms as an ornamental cornice under the soffits. This is so special if you consider that the “gingerbread era” came later. Pratt didn’t like the name West Bloomfield because he apparently didn’t think that it was impressive or beautiful enough to reflect such an exquisite natural setting.

  14. POSTED BY Montclair Lover  |  December 31, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    * What does that mean, when the town attorney labels a memo from the town planner to the town planning board as “privileged”?
    * Why would the bank want to hold on to this property?
    * Why doesn’t somebody finish the building?
    * Does the current owner pay 11 x $2000 a year in taxes?
    * Can’t somebody make it into the “affordable housing” that other people want to buy undeveloped land for, and build several private houses on?
    * Why do we all know that that neighborhood is “the most crime-riddled section of town” year after year?

  15. POSTED BY montclairu  |  September 27, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

    Hi guys I recently came across this article when trying to figure out what exactly was going on with this property on Bloomfield. I know this thread occurred quite a while ago but I was hoping someone could let me know if there have been any recent developments…if not I understand.

  16. POSTED BY montclairmommy  |  October 03, 2014 @ 10:01 pm

    This building is finally getting completed, I understand.

  17. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  October 03, 2014 @ 11:39 pm

    One of the biggest mistakes I contributed to on the HPC. Hated that bldg. ..and there is nothing good about it. A good example of a really bad compromise.

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And we can get this project completed in time for Montclair's sesquicentennial when we can stick a fork into historic preservation as a public policy.

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