Major Renovation Planned for Lackawanna Plaza

At least 100 people listened tonight as Robert Ambrosi,  CEO of ARC Properties, described a bold plan to redevelop Montclair’s troubled Lackawanna Plaza shopping mall into a multi-use facility with 20 residential units, a glass-enclosed art gallery, a new restaurant with a liquor license and outdoor seating, a rooftop solar farm, revamped parking and improved landscaping. But the key to the project is getting the center’s anchor tenant, Pathmark, to either invest $5 million to renovate its store or leave.

Ambrosi spoke at a 4th Ward community meeting organized by Montclair councilor Renee Baskerville.

“The store is an embarrassment,” Ambrosi said, adding that  he’s told Pathmark, which is coming out of bankruptcy, to “fix up the store or we’re going to fight you and get you out.” But later in the meeting, asked by a resident what leverage he had with Pathmark, Ambrosi slipped and revealed that he was willing to pay Pathmark to leave.

“It can really be a cool place to be,” Ambrosi said. He said that the apartments, which would be rentals, would have a “West Village, Tribeca, Soho kind of feel” and likely would be called the Art Lofts at Lackawanna Plaza.

Ambrosi also revealed that he is close to signing a lease with a local restaurant for the large spot vacated by Hollywood Video.

Baskerville joined Ambrosi in condemning Pathmark and recommended a boycott, but Ambrosi said that would hurt other tenants and urged citizens to complain to the store’s managers instead.

Ambrosi said that the project could be accomplished in 12 months, but that he won’t proceed without resolution of the Pathmark issue. “It has to be done right,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re just throwing away money.”

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  1. Seriously? I don’t see how Pathmark is any more of an embarrassment than any other tenant they have in there!! Pathmark isn’t my regular stop, but for the past 15 years I have been there plenty of times and never been disappointed. They actually have really good prices and parking is NEVER a problem. A little spriucing up would be nice, but I find the above comments by Ambrosi a little over the top!

  2. Mr. Ambrosi & Son neglected to mention that this plan is pie in the sky for now. He has no permits, no Planning Board or Zoning Board approval from the township. Are they planning to ask for zoning variances, tax abatement, or consideration in the PILOT (Payment in lieu of taxes) special consideration? Yes, it would be wonderful, but we’ve had presentations from other developers over the past few months and years. “Historic Pine Street District”. “Transit Village”. He wants us to contact Pathmark and agitate about renovating? That’s not not job, thank you. I’m keeping on my cynic’s cap for now. If my part of town gets any denser, I’ll be able to walk across the roof of my home and shop at Lackawanna. Oh wait–he wants to call in Crane Center.

  3. If you believe in the NYPD’s “Brown Window” theory, that as a community becomes more visually appealing, the local residents take more pride in it, and crime goes down, this can only mean good things for the area. I’m a big supporter of doing whatever it takes to make these areas safe for Montclair residents at night, and start bringing crime down.

    When I first moved into the area, I went to the Radio Shack in Lackawana one night for batteries, and the employee told me “You shouldn’t really be coming here at night.” Scared the hell out of me. Haven’t gone back since!

    Hopefully Glenfield Park, the Bay St. Train Station, and now Lackawana will all be steps in the right direction.

  4. Sorry, that’s the NYPD’s “Broken Window” theory. Referring to broken glass, not windows boarded up (same idea though).

  5. The ‘Broken Window’ theory is supported by the nypd and other politicians but didn’t originate from the nypd.

    i’m a little suspicious about Ambrosi’s desire to get rid of Pathmark, though I do agree that the plaza is underutilized and the supermarket is off-putting. Was this something he’s been wanting to do for a while?

    However, Lackawanna is frequented most by the lower income families that live just south and east of the plaza; where will they now go for their groceries? The local bodegas? And all because a developer wants to rent high end residential?

    I say get pathmark to clean up it’s image and its act, and try and introduce a ‘chelsea market’ feel to the place, and lose the ‘willowbrook mall’ feel.

    just sayin’.

  6. Leave our pocketbooks alone! Another developer wanting tax abatements to develop his own property. JUST SAY NO!

  7. “Another developer wanting tax abatements”

    —i think i missed that in the article…

    no, i just re-read it—it’s not there.

    good heavens, ROC, do you have now to make stuff up to rail about?

  8. you watch jcunningham. He’s not standing next to Baskerville nor speaking at a “ward meeting” simply because he’s excited. Patch reported that he said he’ll “need the support of the community”.

  9. “Right of Center | OCTOBER 25, 2011 @ 11:40 PM
    Leave our pocketbooks alone! Another developer wanting tax abatements to develop his own property. JUST SAY NO!”


    Good morning ROC. Your high income friends in Manhattan living in 421 tax abatement luxury high rises should really set an example here.

    Their rents would be even huger if the developers who built those towers did so without 421 tax abatements.

    Actually, theie apartments wouldn’t exist because the banks would have never lent the developers the money without the 421 tax abatement program, since the numbers would never have penciled out.

  10. I vote for the solar farm! Whenever I see an historical, skylit one-of-a-kind space that would be perfect for a commercial application, a lynchpin to re-vitalizing a unique and visible enclave, I just think “let’s cover the thing with solar panels to show everyone how green we are.” The restaurant should be vegan, of course, and the cuisine should be based upon aquaculture and sustainability with lots of seaweed and plankton based dishes served from communal bowls and eaten by hand. Toilets should be composting, of course. What a draw!

  11. and they get those abatements, Spiro, in exchange for providing “moderate income” units and opting into rent-control. See what a corrupting influence socialism has?

    No abatements, no rent controls, let the market function. Local politicians should stop cashing in the town’s treasury to buy votes in their wards. It just means the rest of we taxpayers have to make up the difference.

  12. Deadeye, you are too funny. But the place you described already exists in Oakland, California — it’s called Chez Panisse.

  13. I’ve been to that Pathmark a couple times. Funny- one of the workers over the telecom: “Would the lady with the chicken please come back to customer service?” Also… “There’s a girl scout cookie outside the store.” (There was actually a girl scout table setup…). Yeaaaa. That was all in one awesome trip.

    I personally avoid that Pathmark. I used to go to one next to Paterson that was less run down. It just feels like you’re in a basement. Other than that I have no real complaints.

  14. Oh and the Dollar Store there is waaaaay more sketchy. It’s half of a store really. It looks like they were looted.

  15. As long as Pathmark would be replaced with a large food store, I’m on board with fix up or ship out. I go there out of desparation when I run out of something and don’t want to schlep to ShopRite in Blfd or WO. While not the friendliest store, and very crowded in layout, I too am never disappointed. Perhaps an improved fresh fruit and veg department with more variety and organics, and improved meats and you have a winner.

    I think its the rest of the tennants that have to go. It seems Payless, Radio Shack and the chicken place would do fine supporting the community. The rest is crap IMHO.

  16. Pathmark does need to clean up, but I think a boycott is hilarious. Like any of the snobs ashamed at Pathmark for existing and giving working class people a place to shop besides Whole Paycheck would ever deign to shop there.
    The Dollar store and similar are more of an embarrassment. If they want to gentrify the location, please do, but use private funds and stop acting like a supermarket is what he’s talking about. Next, Popeye’s chicken will be accused of causing “blight.”

  17. We went to that Parkmark once, and upon leaving, got the you-know-what scared outta of us. Never returned. We go to the W.O. Essex Green Shop Rite and / or the Livingston Shop Rite. For fresh fish, it’s the Bloomfield Shop-Rite, Only ! Do not purchase meat in supermarkets, only from the Kosher burcher in Millburn. One does not get asked for money, in an manner that scares you, or that the person follows you for a bit. trying to scare you, as happened to us, in that plaza, in the aforementioned towns.

  18. They should consider modeling it after NYC’s Chelsea Market. It’s about the same size and has a similar industrial feel to the place. Plus, it’s so central to Monclair, would be great if it served as this “one-stop shop” for fresh vegetables, seafood, a butcher, deserts, etc. It doesn’t have to be high-end, either (although Montclair/GR residents would probably support it if it was).

  19. Mercy! no more residential units, please! We are already the 2nd most densely populated county in the State with roughly 6,200 people per square mile – for heaven’s sake, our infrastructure (and sanity) can’t take much more! When do we reach equillibrium? Never?

    I’m still mad at the condos being crammed into the Label Street property (formerly the DMV Inspection station) with variance after variance for parking, driveways, access, etc.

    Pile on, Garth!

  20. Think Trader Joe’s. What an asset that would be to Montclair. Wouldn’t be real competition to the Pathmark, but would certainly give them the incentive to spruce it up a bit and would afford them access to new clientele. As far as Pathmarks go, this one is fine, produce fresh, well stocked. I shop there all the time. It’s not scary unless you think that anyone who doesn’t have enough money to shop in whole foods is scary!! They could have more lines open. The entire complex has so much potential, what a shame they only attract dollar and discount stores.

  21. I’d love a Chelsea Market type space. Good for commuters, who could stop by when they get off the train to pick up things for dinner, or meet for a drink/dinner, pick up their dry cleaning, bring flowers to their wife (utopian thinking here) …. sounds great for business development and would certainly clean up the area, making it safer for everyone. A successful market/plaza could create jobs. Loft-style apartments would likely attract a greater percentage of singles/couples and so not add more children to the school system than the tax base can support.

    That said — Chelsea Market is a pretty upscale space, which is likely what the owner really wants. A problem for local residents who need accessible and affordable shopping. In Jinx’s perfect world, farmers would get subsidies for growing fruits and vegetables, not corn, and low-income families would get more substantial vouchers for healthy foods and could afford to shop at a place with a Chelsea Market-style mix of products. Of course, this is never going to happen. So it’s that uncomfortable situation where gentrification is good for many, but a definite problem for those who have the fewest options to start with. Uncomfortable reality.

  22. C’mon Spiro – you know ROC is right to suspect that the beleaguered property-taxpayers of Montclair should be very worried about this sort of talk – they are always the schlimazels in this sort of deal.

    I always marvel at how often you guys completely miss the acres of common ground you have and instead so often allow yourselves to be goaded by the Red and Blue teams (or their minions) to fight in the margins about the minutiae. Here’s a bit of doggerel for you both:

    Makes no difference,
    Red or Blue,
    They’re both out,
    To screw you!

    It’s like the Tea Party and OWS, pitted against each other by the “Color War” masters when they are pretty much on the same side:

    To the TEA Partiers, I would say:

    Q. Who do you think runs the Government – regardless of “Party Affiliation” – for the benefit of themselves, and to the detriment of our nation?
    A. The 1%

    To the folks at Occupy Wall Street, I would say:

    Q. How do you think that the 1% has been able to seize control of our financial system and run it for their benefit and to the detriment of our nation?
    A. They control the government when either party is in power.

  23. He’s not standing next to Baskerville nor speaking at a “ward meeting” simply because he’s excited. Patch reported that he said he’ll “need the support of the community”.

    No doubt he’s seeking council approval, but he’s a fool to do it with Dr. Baskerville. She’s borderline crazy, and she may go along with him for now, but if she senses her support will damage her politically (or if he says something mean about her behind the scenes) she’ll pull the rug out from under him even if his plan is good for Montclair. He’s better off going to every other member of the council and leaving her alone.

  24. Council approval for what? Renovation? Buying out his lease with Pathmark? I don’t think so.

    No, she’s there to put the “community approval stamp” on his plans. So that his development plans will be seen as a way to “better the community” which of course the community can “support” by tax abatements, variances or even direct “investment”.

  25. The “broken window theory” means that if you are walking past an abandoned warehouse and see a broken window, you feel it’s ok to through a rock and break another window since nobody cared to fix the first one. Then it invites others to vandalize and squat in that building as a ripple effect to nobody caring about the community. A successful strategy for preventing vandalism is to fix the problems when they are small. Repair the broken windows within a short time, say, a day or a week, and the tendency is that vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage. Clean up the sidewalk every day, and the tendency is for litter not to accumulate (or for the rate of littering to be much less). Problems do not escalate and thus respectable residents do not flee a neighborhood.
    We do not need more residential units. Especially from ARC. Bring in someone voted by the historical society to limit this cookie cutter developments we are seeing everywhere. If Pathmark and these other “blight” establishments are successfully there for decades than it’s not an economic eyesore. Its a thriving ecosystem that is supported by the local community. I would love to see some nice shops there, but as a previous poster mentioned, it serves a purpose for its ward and clearly its not hurting because lack of Upper Montclair/Glen Ridge shoppers

  26. Carl, you’re probably referring to my posts vs ROC’s posts on other threads on other topics, where partisan talk is salient.

    With regard to real estate tax abatements, these are not red or blue like you suggest. Sometimes these abatements spur development and make up for short term shortfalls by way of increased real estate tax income to the municipalities down the road, and sometimes they flop. In the first case , the taxpayers are not the “shlimazels”at the end of the day. In the second case, you’re right that the shlimazel quotient increases significantly.

    In this thread, I pointed out that the wealthy ( and this would be both red and blue voters, to use the categories you suggested ) once again benefit handsomely from subsidies, (in the 421 case I used as one illustration) as either renters or unit owners. In NYC, 421 tax breaks have greased the wheels for luxury apartments for decades now, long before the onset of the 80/20 requirement for market rate vs moderate income tenancies that ROC brings up. And J51 was an earlier program with similar goals.

  27. … and it turns out you can justify anything if it’s “by way of increased [fill in the blank] income down the road” as Cary Africk will tell you.

    Why, perhaps like, 85 year payback periods for solar streetlights which only last 30 years.

  28. Council approval for what? Renovation? Buying out his lease with Pathmark? I don’t think so.

    Doesn’t the council need to approve an abatement?

  29. hang on!
    I just re-read the post.
    Baskerville joined Ambrosi in condemning Pathmark and recommended a boycott

    Did she really say that? Boycott a long-standing business in your own Ward?

    your own biases aside (i.e. whether you’re a Whole-foodie or ShopRiter) it’s not like Pathmark is selling crack right off the shelves, or running a puppy mill, or cooking up vats of red dye number 3 and stinking up the place. Boycott??!

  30. Liz said it all it is one of the highest grossing Pathmarks. It is in a great location for those who do not own cars and for those who need to buy groceries. If the Pathmark goes where all of the shoppers that make it such a profitable store go?

    If my fridge was empty and the Parkmark was my only option I may take a yardstick and scrape under my stove to see if there was anything edible under there before heading to that store. Lucky me I have options.

    Now who wants on of my famous ” Crunchy Dust Nuggets”?

  31. Are they going to get rid of that leftover staircase from the demolished Grove Street overpass that doesn’t connect to anything anymore? It looks horrible! In fact, it looks downright silly!

  32. Sorry nickcharles I misread your post. I thought you were disagreeing that he was seeking money from the taxpayers.

  33. Spiro,

    I pretty-much understood your point, but to discount the fact that we were talking about a development in Montclair (or in NJ for that matter) seemed reflexive to me – more of the “Your guy’s a crook / No, your guy’s a crook” banter (For the most part, you both are correct – they’re both crooks).

    In NJ, the percentage of these abatements that actually do “spur development and make up for short-term shortfalls” (as opposed to draining the taxpayer and reaping financial benefits some well-connected developer and/or politician and/or machine) is so small, it probably would appear as a needle on a pie chart – and a chart of the ones in Montclair could probably be made with a single color.

  34. No, it’s obvious he wants something from the wallets of Montclair residents. I just question his judgment for playing nice with Renee Baskerville.

  35. They don’t pay off. And council members know it. That’s why, for example, Cary Africk won’t discuss the specifics of his “pay-for-itself” pet project. I’m sure Baskerville won’t either.

    Put it this way, if any of these projects actually really paid off, we’d have all the detailed numbers shoved in our faces as evidence every time they wanted to initiate another one.

  36. I have been going to Lackawanna Plaza since the “Grand Opening” and I have never been mugged, robbed or harrassed. I remember when Pathmark first opened they had a large sign pledging that if there were ever more than 3 people waiting in line, they would open another register. That sign is long gone. I don’t go there much anymore because the lines are too long. I have other options but there are many people who do not and really need an affordable grocery store in the area. That being said, Pathmark and Lackawanna plaza could use some updating.

  37. When I need an item or two and don’t feel like driving, I go to Pathmark. Besides the long lines mentioned earlier, My pet peeve is the smell of fried chicken that smacks you in the face as soon as you enter the store.

  38. I’ll go out on a limb and guess this property has never been renovated since it was originally converted from a train station. Feels it. A significant investment would be even better than a facelift. Vertical expansion’s fine. This corner needs density.

    That said Lackawana Plaza Mall reminds me of Fulton Street in Brooklyn which never drew upper middle income shoppers but drew strong from lower middle and lower income groups and generated tremendous sales per square foot. Except for the big oddly configured corner where Hollywood Video had been that is now slated for a restaurant, and a tiny adjacent storefront, the rest of the mall is full, and has both everyday shopping (a renovated laundromat, watch repair, a shipping store, DDs’, a pizza shop and Pathmark) and destination shopping, for clothing and Radio Shack. I found myself there many times over the years, typically have success with whatever I am after.

    I say good luck to ARC.

  39. And the gentrification of lower class Montclair continues. I guess once they oust all the po’ people they will have to get rid of all the auto repair businesses in that area too. I have an idea. How about you let the lower income townsfolk continue to have uncouth places that offer shoe repair and check cashing and you build a Whole Foods on Mission Street. Now that area really needs help.

  40. As a 4th warder, I’m in that Pathmark all the time, although never for a full weekly shopping. That would be torture. But they have the best self check out in the area, Shop Rite doesn’t offer it at all, A&Ps machines are awful. For the frequent or occasional stop, it’s not bad. That said, I vote for a Wegman’s. They’re more in line with the needs of the locals; good pricing on staples, fresh produce and meats. Plus they have the upscale stuff and lots of take out options at lunchtime.

  41. If they are going to clean up Pathmark, they need to start with the public restrooms! The toilet in the ladies room doesn’t even have a seat attached! I have spoken to the manager several times without results. The second area would be the deli. The slicers aren’t cleaned. If you order sliced turkey, when you arrive home, as a suprise, you will have bonus shavings of ham, balogna, roast beef mixed in with your cold cuts. Nice!

  42. Pathmark is great, friendly and always supports local charities..I shop there all the time….they’re polite and friendly….Boycott them?…thats ridiculous and uncalled for. I don’t would’nt listen to a word Dr. Baskerville says. Ridiculous.

  43. WOW! Bye Bye poor people! Looks like the plan to remove all the lower income people is in full swing. Midtown Direct Connection to get yuppies to move downtown building of overpriced condos near the train station, and now taking away a supermarket that was put there to help lower income people during the last redevelopment of the area 30 years ago. I guess you can never have too many wine shops, sushi joints and Starbucks in Montclair…

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