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.”