DCH Redevelopment Moves Ahead

The long-awaited development of the DCH Auto site on the corner of Valley Rd. and Bloomfield Ave. is set to begin this August, if the Montclair Planning Board approves the site plan and redeveloper agreement proposed by Montclair Acquisitions Partners, LLC, the partnership formed by Pinnacle Construction and DCH Auto Group.

According to Township Manager Marc Dashield, the public hearing regarding the site plan application is scheduled to go before the Planning Board on Monday, April 9.

“Very little has been decided on at this point,” said Township attorney Ira Karasick. “A development plan has been adopted by the council.”

The amount of revenue that will be generated by the site is part of the redevelopment agreement with the Township, according to Janice Talley, Director of Planning and Community Development.

“The ratables will be developed as each building is completed,” said Dashield in an email.

There are three buildings planned to occupy the site, with the details as follows:

Building 1:  24,739 s.f. of office space on the first floor and 138 dwelling units

Building 2:  29,060 s.f. of retail space on the first floor and 124 dwelling units

Building 3:  15,562 s.f. of commercial space on the first floor and 67 dwelling units 

Phase 1, according to Dashield, would begin in August, with completion by March 31, 2014. Phase 2 would begin on October 15, 2013 with completion by December 31, 2014.

Montclair’s decision to proceed with Pinnacle as the site developer this past December sparked contentious debate among council members.

“My understanding is that we need to have a financial agreement in place,” said Councilor Cary Africk. “I don’t believe that’s been done.” Africk said that when he first proposed building dorms on the site for Montclair State University nearly three years ago, the plan was criticized primarily because the estimated $1.4 million in revenue would not be enough.

“There’s been no mention of the revenue that well be generated,” said Africk. “The empty building on the lot still pays $300,000 in taxes.” Africk said that while the completed construction may generate equal if not greater revenue, there has been no sense of what will be generated during construction.

“Revenue has not been calculated,” said Karasick. “It’s not that it won’t be… it’s that now is a bit premature.”

At the meeting in December, Councilor Renée Baskerville, who voted against the resolution, cited the extensive mold and water damage at Pinnacle’s Siena building as reason against using the same developer again.

“DCH owns all of the land and they’ve chosen Pinnacle to be the development partner,” said Karasick.  “We have to go along with what DCH wants to do.”

“Everyone’s aware of it,” said Karasick, regarding the problems at the Siena. “The redeveloper agreement will have some quality control,” in the three proposed buildings.

“I visited with Siena residents and saw the problems – they are very real problems,” said Africk. “But I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate to blame Pinnacle. They need engineering help.”

Africk criticized the plans for not being “big enough” and said that they could have included other properties, such as the parking lot across from the police station on Bloomfield Ave.

“In the past, Montclair did not undertake a full due diligence on certain development projects to make sure both the aesthetic interests of the Township and our financial positions were fully protected,” said local pundit, Martin Schwartz, referring to the Crisco (Christopher Court) development that was built on the site of the former Marlboro Inn.

“Had this, or the last council placed the DCH property within the Downtown Commericial Historic District, we would have much more control over the look and feel of what is being built today,” said Schwartz, as the exterior of the proposed buildings resemble the Siena. “At the same time, what type of tax revenues we receive and when we anticipate getting them really has to drive all final negotiations for redeveloping this DCH site.”

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  1. I believe that there is a jaguar wall hanging still in there, along with a bunch of papers and filing cabinets. I call dibs on the jaguar.

  2. “I visited with Siena residents and saw the problems – they are very real problems,” said Africk. “But I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate to blame Pinnacle. They need engineering help.”

    Perhaps they should have gotten that engineering help before the building turned into a multi-million dollar colander. “Blame” is the wrong word here: if it is clear that oversight on Pinnacle’s part caused the problem, then they should fix it and Montclair should have some iron-clad contracts with money in escrow before they get to play again.

  3. I’m betting there will be a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement for this development. How have our previous PILOT agreements worked for us? Not too well, I think.

  4. We shouldn’t have to be bullied into excepting these undesirable projects. This DHC redevelopment should hopefully disappear with the next election.

  5. Other than the debatable Siena project, does Pinnacle have a good track record as a developer? Are other towns happy with their work? Are customers happy with their projects? That would have been nice to know 5 or so years ago. Someone, on the Council, the Manager, the Town Planner or the Media should have done a little digging into their previous projects. Maybe they did? Is Pinnacle a reputable developer?

  6. As proposed these are simply ugly buildings. Touches of brick adorning an otherwise cement facade make for an eyesore. Anyone ever looked at the Sienna from the rear? It is all cement. What will this project look like from Orange Road?

    It is a bad trend. The planned Glenwood Village project in downtown Bloomfield looks the same. Our grandkids will be living with these structures and I wish they reminded me less of Soviet-style apartment blocks.

  7. And I’m quite sure none of these 329 (!!) units will have children to flood our schools. As we’ve been assured in the past, by Plofker I believe, families with children don’t buy condos.

  8. It is my understanding that a PILOT agreement is anticipated. In no way should this be interpreted as Montclair will get LESS money. In fact, the Town usually gets MORE money with a PILOT, because the County gets very little.

    Pinnacle employed qualified engineers and builders on the Sienna. It is an unfortunate situation that leaks have developed. Yes, the problems are real and yes, Pinnacle and everyone else involved wants to resolve them.

    It is my understanding that Pinnacle has had many totally successful projects.

    This project will go ahead.

    I would like to see some revenue projections for EACH phase in the project.

    As time goes by I trust we will expand development to the other areas nearby!

  9. “It is my understanding that a PILOT agreement is anticipated. In no way should this be interpreted as Montclair will get LESS money. In fact, the Town usually gets MORE money with a PILOT, because the County gets very little.”

    I may be wrong, but wasn’t there a problem recently with the non-collection of PILOT payments? Wasn’t there disagreement between the town and developer concerning when the PILOT would take effect? Some percentage of occupancy of commercial property before they would pay or something like that?

  10. Councilman Africk,

    What is your source on “It is my understanding that Pinnacle has had many totally successful projects.”

    And, was that source checked?

    The leaks are one issue. The shrewd language on the Siena PILOT deal might be an even more transparent look at Pinnacle as a developer. Is that something they did with other towns?

    Sure, Pinnacle has the deal. The only worry is that Pinnacle seems very clever at Montclair’s expense. Will they strike again?

  11. The project will probably move forward until something is done to stop it. The general public is not provided with enough section diagrams and true to life photoshop or media representation to cave a clear understanding of what the impact of the proposed project would have. Remember what the Christopher Court and Siena renderings that were presented looked like in comparison to the built reality. Nothing can prevent the developers from posting their misleading renderings…but within the community we have the capability of doing that ourselves.

    If you wish to have an idea of what the built result of the project would be….drive to East Orange Center. what you see is pretty exciting…NICE! Well the proposed Montclair project won’t look as good unfortunately. East Orange’s re development is a successful result of several decades of good honest expertise and planning done within the community internally, from community members meticulously working for the good of their own environment. Presently, in Montclair, there is no dynamic similar to this. Using a trained eye, unfortunately, the results of the proposed project would be inferior to how East Orange has developed.

    Bloomfield has beautiful and historically valuable buildings along the green and Bloomfield College is fixing them and maintaining them in fabulous condition. It would have been best for Montclair Center if MSU had moved in. MSU’s new buildings are BEAUTIFUL and would have been a more appropriate for the renaissance of Montclair Center…especially with some Mediterranean Revival Style forms and facades that would reflect the unique style of the Hinck Building.

    Hopefully we can avoid getting bullied into this unsatisfactory and just plain BAD project as time moves forward and the present township council will no longer have power to operate.

  12. It is short sighted and simply wrong to put up junk. Can we please balance a proper outcome against the greed that is ever-present? Our neighbors are proving that redevelopment can be done properly – can’t we emulate them instead of Gordon Gecko?

  13. These will go up and everyone will question how the town let it happen, after it’s too late. I know it’s private property and a private sale. BUT – do we really have to say yes to every variance and tax incentive a developer wants and then allow them to do what they want, or can our planning board have a little vision and some guts and use what little power they have to influence the outcome? Or is someone in town just getting kick backs?

  14. Holy Cow, 300+ units??!! Jeez-Louize! Did anyone bother to do a traffic study on this?? Our infrastructure can’t handle the number of cars in town as it is, imho, and now we’re gonna add 300 more cars? Or did the developer hedge that in the hearings and say, “Uh…wellllll, we think half of the buyers will be young’uns who take the train to work” (that’s a Long Danged walk to the nearest train station, BTW) (therefore also likely getting a parking waiver?)

    Or did they really just sell the town a bucket of malarkey? Did the town “fall for it” or were they/some of them “in on it”??

    How many more stinking condos do we need?? There’s already some going in at the old Motor Vehicle station on Forest street (with parking waivers required for that too, if I recall correctly) HOW many people really want condos??!

    For Pete’s sake! Wedge ’em in, boys!!

    I’m moving to the Country!
    Or to Stu’s back yard, where I think he’s got lotsa space for my 4-person tent!


  15. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the Mayor Ed Remsen Council voted in a large parking reduction for the Siena developer when that was going through the approval process. The councilors actually said most of the Siena residents would be carless because they will be NYC commuters. I wonder how that theory worked out? Did the town check that theory with a survey of the current residents? Or are we just going to give the same break to the DCH development?

  16. “DCH owns all of the land and they’ve chosen Pinnacle to be the development partner,” said Karasick. “We have to go along with what DCH wants to do.”

    The foregoing statement is false. The owner of the property is coming to the township to negotiate how the property gets developed and to negotiate a PILOT agreement. Everything is negotiable. If the owner wanted to develop the property strictly in accordance with zoning without a development contract with the Township, then this would be true.

  17. Anyone buying a $500k condo in Montclair is not going to be carless. The train station is not really walkable (at least not in bad weather and it’s just not an urban enough environment to be able to conveniently buy groceries, go the Farmer’s market, doctors, vets, movies, clothes.

  18. Beale,

    Yes there were problems “in interpretation” with PILOT payments at the Sienna. This has been corrected.


    The PR on successful projects comes, as far as I know, from Pinnacle. I have no reason not to believe this. I do not believe we, or anyone else, routinely visits redevelopments to see “how” they turned out and in any event I’m sure people will have differing opinions.

    jhartnett is right, as usual.

    See if the following quotes, from the MT article, sheds any light on reasons for the enthusiasm for this project:

    We are focusing as a company on next-generation projects, which I define as more than just eco-friendly,” he said. “They include sustainable-energy components, as well as energy efficiency, as well as additional technology for communication … as well as transportation initiatives, putting in things like shared cars … You just have a car for an hour or two if you need it. And we’re going to installing park-and-lock bikes, which they use in Europe.”

    These efforts include putting solar panels on the roof of the Orange Road Parking Deck.

    “We have LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] requirements in the redevelopment plan,” said Talley.

    25-foot-tall, two-story glass atrium; a public plaza; three courtyards for residents; “green roofs” with landscaping and solar panels; and a fleet of electric cars that residents could use.

    cutting-edge, green-building design features

  19. kay – Plenty of room for you. In fact, we just took out the remaining half a tree that tumbled during Snoctobergeddon. You can bring an 8 person tent now.

  20. Talking about LEED can be very misLEEDING and these are all concepts in a transition phase with regards to their validity. (example…LEED windows usually only have a 8 – 20 year warrantee and then they must removed and replaced because they cannot be repaired and re painted like old technology windows….they just wind up in the garbage dump)

    The leed building re development projects of the Catherine Gibbs and the Church at Hillside Avenue seem excellent to me.

    You can say whatever you want about the DCH project fulfilling the LEED requirements but thats not the point and those requirements should be fulfilled anyway by any developer. Urbanisticly, speaking….its a bad project and will just allow for the Siena project to be rubberstampted and spread into other locations.

  21. In April of 2011, the town said they were owed $282K in PILOT payments. In June of 2011, they agreed on a payment 0f $142K because of “ambiguity” in the contract. So the problem was corrected in whose favor? And what’s to say that a new PILOT agreement wouldn’t contain “ambiguities”? I think Pinnacle’s lawyers are better than Montclair’s lawyers.

  22. I calculated that the Gateway Redevelopment Plan, based on the Phase 1&2 site plan application details in the media/town web site, requires 725 total spaces – including the existing 78 public spaces operated by the MPA. About 100 less with a shared car facility. The Orange Rd garage, as currently configured for auto storage, can accommodate about 600+ cars, if my memory serves me right. The deck would need to be reconfigured for the planned use with the total capacity – again, my estimate – of less than 500 cars.
    My pro forma on potential revenue to the township would have Bldgs 1/2/3 contributing 1.1m/960k/550k respectively – or around $2.6MM total. If done as a PILOT, I understand the payments typically align with the muni part of the levy and a prorated amount to the County. IF I’m in the ballpark, than that would be just under 50% of the above. I used the current levy and 2011 assessed value of comps from the Sienna.
    These two areas are obviously where I have some concerns about both the overall development impact and within the context of the staggered development phases.

  23. I plan to redevelop my backyard in Glen Ridge. Any takers besides Kay and Jerseygurl. The first month’s rent is free.

  24. whoa whoa WHOA!! Am I reading this right? Gator & Stu… perfect together???!!!! I had no idea! (poof) there goes the top of my head! 😀

    Dibs on the yard and I’ll take the other half too (sorry ‘Gurl) so I can plant some tomatoes and green beans. I’ll even put in a redbud for you to replace your missing tree, as a payment-in-lieu-of-rent…

  25. “Bring back jhartnett.”

    The Manager should be in a sense a reflection of the Council. They hire him! Search, evaluate candidates, seek input from prior townships and finally choice the “best”. That is the subjective part, “best”. Best to whom, the people on the Council, which in turn are the people through representation. Joe Hartnett, was a great reflection of the times when he was in office. Up until 2008 it was generous for both the private and public sector. Housing was booming. Bonus’s were big. Union contracts afforded 3,4,5% raises. Hundreds of non essential employees were let go through attrition in town. It all seemed fine.

    Until the economy faltered, peoples lives changed and so did their perspectives. Mindsets have changed, I believe. The conversation has changed since 2008. Revenues, both Government and Private are flat, if not decreasing. What the outcome of the elections will be, is a different matter.

  26. When I supported investment professionals it became clear than just about any fool could make money in a good times up market. When things became … more challenging … a lot of prior “stars” were revealed to be average or worse performers.

    Sometimes circumstances make us look like stars and sometimes they reveal our limitations.

  27. “Anyone buying a $500k condo in Montclair is not going to be carless.”

    Unless you are a cash buyer the exact opposite is true. Anyone willing to lever into a $500k condo in this market is 1000% careless. That said, maybe those who might do so are the target buyers.

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