Happy Birthday, Montclair BID

BID's Luther Flurry in downtown Montclair.

Congratulations to the Montclair Business Improvement District, which turns 10 today. Its mission, now as ever, says executive director Luther Flurry, is “to make Montclair Center a vibrant place to shop, dine, work and live.” The BID is currently crafting a survey for downtown businesses and shoppers, which it will disseminate broadly. As a jumpstart, we’ll ask our readers: what’s great about Montclair Center and what needs work?

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Pro – it’s got some great shops and restaurants.
    Con – it’s got too many vacancies. There’s not enough foot traffic because it’s not particularly pedestrian friendly (with the exception of Church St. and Glen Ridge Ave.) Street parking is an issue. So is traffic.

  2. The rents are too high. Downtown Montclair retail should not exceed $22 PSF gross for a space in excess of 1500 feet sq. merchant to be economically viable. Strong nationals can pay more but generally won’t due to parking.

    Caveat Emptor prospective lessors. Don’t lett owners and brokers manage your expectations otherwise. Unless it is a vanity business and you are independently wealthy, don’t let owners or brokers delude you with visions of grandeur.

    It is simple economics. Know your business and realize your occupancy costs will eat you alive if you sign a deal with the devil.

    Remember, it is the MERCHANTS that make the downtown, not the owners or brokers. Know your economics, be realistic and be careful who you get into bed with (LL).

    PS: Compliments to Raymond’s for giving the downtown some verve and reliable good eats!

  3. I am told by natives that Bloomfield Avenue used to be a street people were afraid of. Now it’s well lit, clean, with good signage, some well preserved buildings, and great restaurants. BID deserves praise for its contributions. The traffic is a problem, as is the parking. It needs more greenery. Nothing’s perfect.

  4. Bloomfield Avenue is basically a highway that runs right through the middle of town. I have to admit that the aesthetics seem to have improved somewhat. Some interesting shops and restaurants which are a big draw. I’m sure if they could address the BYO situation, the restaurant’s profitability would increase. Personally don’t like BYOs and consequently am missing out on some great food, I’m sure. The vacancies are noticeable and cast somewhat of a pallor. Overall a gritty, more urban feel than points west, kind of like Washington St. in Hoboken several decades ago when the gentrification hadn’t fully kicked in. Parking is pretty brutal, nuff said.

    To Spiro’s point above, an air of menace can be palpable, even in the area of Park St. There are often groups and individuals hanging around, and let’s just say their presence is not a positive contribution to the overall ambience. I’m not hypersensitive to this issue having lived in Manhattan before it was Disneyfied, and Hoboken before it was chic, but Bloomfield Ave. is the most recent place where I felt like I had to put my wallet and watch in my front pocket, and I’m not the first guy you’re going to pick on. It’s a free country, but loitering should be discouraged, especially if you read the police reports of crime and hard core drug activity that routinely takes place just a couple of hundred yards at most from the central business district.

  5. I think the BID has more than served it purpose over the first 10 years. It is a model of a well executed quasi local government organization, for the right situation, at the right time. It one of Montclair’s valuable assets. It has benefited from strong executive directors leading the organization, both previously and currently. I see the opportunity over the next decade to invest in and leverage this asset’s strengths and success to bring it to the next level in managing the downtown.

  6. Most of the vital information has been left out of this post.

    Lets not forget that Tom Lonergan was the Executive Director from 2002- 2011 and was the real force behind the changes you see today. Luther has only been in place since August 2011 as an interim director.

    PROS: Will have to think about that because none come to mind.

    CONS:
    No public seating, no planters, over flowing garbage cans, poorly marked parking areas, high vacancy rates, decaying storefronts, lack of communication from BID to business owners about what the BID does. The areas is definitely unsafe after 9-10pm.

    Focus of the current BID is fragmented at best. Overzealous, expensive projects being discussed at the BID as if its the Planning Commission rather than focusing on small things that can be done now, which is what most well functioning BIDS usually focus on.

    Perhaps the BID could actually look at the placement of planters right which are usually right next to overflowing garbage cans. It is that tricky to move them apart to increase the visual appeal and people stop throwing trash in the planters? They are all haphazardly placed with no design or planning principles involved. The corner in front of CVS is an example. No one ever thought to push the planter in front of the electric box so its more appealing from the street when people drive by?

    The holidays are over. Remove the tacky, worn out ribbons from the planters already.

    BONE OF CONTENTION:
    BID is incredibly frosty toward volunteers willing do things for free and has focused on a method of exclusion rather than inclusion. Free labor turned rebuffed in this economy? Well, allrighty then…

    Specific wording used in email correspondence initiated by a potential volunteer has appeared in articles as ideas coming from current director which was not cool at all. Said volunteer had years of experience in the specific area and presented it to the current director upon his arrival.

    Planning chart being used by BID was lifted from another well known planning organization (with more than four months of experience) and no credit given to original organization – another idea being propelled as original from the BID. The original organization specifically states in all training seminars the chart is copyrighted and they must be given credit at all times. This is also not cool or professional.

    Website is sorely outdated and useless. 1996-style websites were outdated in 1997 long before the BID selected this design and has continued to stick with it even in a digital era. This reveals how disconnected the BID is from the reality of the community it serves which is mostly driven by Smart Phone technology.

    TOO MUCH RED TAPE. Too much talking and not enough action from the BID. Making things visibly attractive shouldn’t be this arduous. I guess the harder people make their job appear, the more relevant their job becomes in the eyes of the public.

    Last one to leave, please turn out the lights – if they’re still working…

  7. What is your point Frank? Wasn’t the question concerning the actual state of the town center, and not what a great group of ditherers the BID is?

  8. As a business owner in Montclair Center. I agree with davidgreenbaum about the parking and rent issues in Montclair Center. There are simply not enough customers coming to the area to shop and buy to justify upscale rents. The customers who do shop here are having their shopping experience marred by a growing number of vagrants and panhandlers who can be quite aggressive and confrontational at times. Add to that the stress of worrying about feeding the hyper enforced parking meters is not creating an environment to draw people here for enjoyable shopping. That being said. All the floral displays, catchy slogans on signposts and correctly timed removal of holiday lights mean NOTHING!

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