BLOG: Don’t Allow Another Two Floors On CentroVerde Development

A revised version of CentroVerde Building 2, along Valley Road and Bloomfield Avenue, with eight stories instead of six
A revised version of CentroVerde Building 2, along Valley Road and Bloomfield Avenue, with eight stories instead of six

Jason DeSalvo, a Montclair resident and CEO of Clear Mountain Partners, a general management consultancy based in Montclair, shares his thoughts on CentroVerde below. He placed these comments in the public record last night at the Montclair Planning Board meeting.

The planning board is expected to vote on the proposal to add two stories to building 1 of CentroVerde at their next meeting in two weeks.

Baristanet Blog disclaimer

What you are discussing tonight – the possible addition of two stories to the approved plans for Building I of CentroVerde – is one of those pivotal moments in our Town’s history that will help shape who and what we are for the foreseeable future.

Montclair is a precious place and one of our most lauded and valued attributes is the very delicate balance that we strike between being urban and suburban – close enough to New York that we share its sophisticated, cultured, diverse, forward‐looking sensibilities yet far enough away from the city to allow a relaxed, suburban feel with wide, un‐crowded sidewalks, parks, trees and views of the sky. Virtually every resident that I speak with cites this balance as being one of the primary reasons that they chose to make their home here.

Allowing LCOR to add an additional two stories to the first CentroVerde building along Bloomfield Avenue seriously threatens the very delicate balance that defines our Town. Our existing zoning ordinances – the very ones that this Board is supposed to uphold – limit development in this part of Town to no more than six stories and in our 145‐year history no building has been allowed to be taller. But more important than simply enforcing existing ordinances is respecting the reason that they were created in the first place – most of the residents living here chose Montclair because of the way it has looked and felt for a very long time. If we wanted tall buildings lining our main thoroughfare we could have chosen to live in New York, Newark or Jersey City.

The decision that stands before you this evening will define how Montclair residents remember this Planning Board and each of you as people for many, many years to come. Our answer to this challenge as a Town should not simply be about revenue. There are certain community values and priorities that simply need to be respected and protected regardless of the payments offered by developers.

Our Mayor has repeatedly said that allowing LCOR to add two more floors with 50 additional units in exchange for the development of a small park is a financial “no brainer” that will provide an economic windfall to our Town. Forgetting the fact that absolutely no detailed or credible financial analysis has actually gone into making such a statement, should the public’s trust in this Board’s willingness to uphold our zoning laws really be for sale for less than $150 per household and the creation of a postage‐stamp‐sized park? Yes, you heard that number correctly. Even if we were to receive a $2 million cash payment from LCOR for the

development rights of what is now a small, town‐owned parking lot and thus allowing two additional stories to be added to CentroVerde Building One, this only amounts to a token, one‐time payment of just $131 per household – an absurdly low sum ‐‐that given the way our Town historically spends money, residents would likely never even see.

But what every surrounding Town and all of us as residents will forever be reminded of ‐‐ as we stare for the rest of our days at the hulking 8‐story atrocity that will rise at the “gateway” to Montclair ‐‐ is that this Planning Board sold out one of our most precious virtues for mere pennies.

I urge all of you not have this be your legacy and to remember that most Montclair residents moved here to be near a city but not to live in one.

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  1. I like those two birds in the rendering, located just above the center of the building. One appears to have a 9 foot wingspan, which is larger than your average NJ turkey buzzard.

  2. Bravo Jason.

    Though why we’re even allowing CentroVerde, who’s Siena is a cheaply made, visual eyesore amongst otherwise historic, beautiful buildings downtown, to build at all again in this town at all is astonishing.

    There are lots of examples of new buildings in town that fit into the surrounding historic fabric: Oasis Architecture has built some great examples, as did whoever built the absolutely beautiful, Victorian inspired home at 37 Glenwood Road. Even the houses on Christopher Court, as crammed as they are, make an effort to fit in architecturally with the neighborhood!

    Helping improve our downtown – and I do think having more people living/visiting within walking distance of Bloomfield Ave will only make things better and encourage more businesses like Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and Lululemon to move into these otherwise large, vacant spaces – doesn’t mean having to give up the town’s historic charm and fabric, does it?

    It’s incredibly discouraging to see our town’s leadership actively try and harm all the things that made many us move here in the first place, all by implementing things that, seemingly, none of us want.

    If any good has come from this, it’s seeing how passionate residents are about this town. People love it here, and I’m proud they’re willing to fight to defend it.

  3. Thank you, Jason DeSalvo, for putting this so eloquently and correctly. Zidarich adds important considerations.

    Expect the Planning Board to advise positively. This disaster belongs to the past and present town leadership. Mayor Jackson and his town council are gun ho on their development theories. Certainly they do not have the interests of the town in mind. One wonders just what interests they really have.

  4. THANK YOU JASON DE SALVO for expressing what so many in Montclair think about this project! We will have to live with this monster of a building thanks to the last TC but we don’t have to accept an added 2 stories!

  5. A spirited & focused case…, but 2 stories is not what the Council authorized the Planning Board to consider (see R_13_125).

    In that resolution: 1) mentions only transfer rights to CV in general – not any specific proposal and 2) states specifically what the council is asking for, “,,,to recommend amendments to the plan that will facilitate a transfer of development rights option.”

    To make a long scenario short, the hotel site is approved for about 105-115 ft or about a 10 story equivalent. What if there isn’t a hotel? Yes, shocking. Then the site is only approved for 6 stories. It would a be nice fallback for the MAG & the Council if the PB recommends a TDR option, even if it doesn’t recommend the currently proposed 2 additional stories to Building 2.

  6. Just saw the Montclair Times online version with the 3-D rendering. As I said, what hotel?

    There is, of course, a third scenario for the request for the TDR option.

  7. I never thought I would actually miss the car dealer on that corner but if this is the alternative, I do. At least they sold upscale cars.

  8. I am so grateful to see Jason DeSalvo’s statement and I totally agree. I also am grateful for the responces and for more and more people coming out to express themselves about this irreversible mistake looming in front of us. These buildings masses will have the same impact as the Christopher Columbus Homes in Newark… and will probably have the same future. (they were so bad that they had to be torn down)
    Many of us in the community are not so stupid (as we are being treated) and already understand the disasterous affects that these buildings will have if built. instead of just complaining here on baristanet, and writing to the Montclair Times (all ignored anyway) Isnt there a practical way to stop all of this? Is there a formal way for the community to take action to twart the grave mistake of building this project? what can be done at this point?
    If nothing can be done….its useless to post here…or go to meetings to comment…or write letters to editors or have Save Montclair Facebook pages. Its wasted energy if these is no positive action being taken.

  9. “These buildings masses will have the same impact as the Christopher Columbus Homes in Newark”

    —oh good grief…

    “If nothing can be done….its useless to post here”

    …unless we ramp up the rhetoric with baseless comparisons designed solely to inflame people’s emotions—and not their brains.

  10. Cary,
    You can find a good, quick education on transfer development rights and related land use strategies at:

    What does it mean? Well, for example, Montclair can realize revenue for the selling the air space above our public parking lots to allow a developer the RIGHTS, by TDR ordinance, to build higher than the existing building height zoning allows. My emphasis here is on “rights”. So, a developer of a parcel in Watchung Plaza zoned for 3-5 stories could add more floors, by right, if the parcel was a designated TDR “Receiving” zone. It obviously implies that the Township parking lot air rights sold were from a designated “Sending” zone.

    The Township’s Redevelopment Plan consultants have indicated a TDR ordinance would be easier to implement if the Council limited its TDR program to be initially between Areas in Need of Rehabilitation/Redevelopment. This is the case of Centro Verde, BUT note the Council’s resolution does not differentiate as to whether Centro Verde (Gateway 1) is just a “Receiving” zone or it could also be a “Sending” zone.

    This is, in fact, the 3rd scenario I mentioned above. In this scenario, the CV hotel parcel does not overcome its “issues” and MAG turns it into a park and sells the development rights to another developer or to a TDR bank. The TDR bank concept is what the Planning Board’s Chair wants to further delve into before the PB makes a recommendation to the Council.

    I hope this helps.

  11. My last point of the morning…
    For reasons including the above, I asked my First Ward Councilor this past July not to support the potential use of Areas in Need of Rehabilitation/Redevelopment in Upper Montclair.

  12. Frank, what are the criteria for Areas in Need of Rehabilitation/Redevelopment? Upper Montclair surely doesn’t need rehabilitation although from a developer’s point of view (or planners seeking more development) there are certainly prime areas to rehabilitate and develop. Is it subjective or quantifiable?

  13. I’m not sure.
    What I do know is that Montclair’s likes to designate parking lots as ANRs. The Orange Road surface parking lot was designated an ANR over a decade ago. It was “economically improved” as a parking deck, but we designated it again as part of the Gateway 1 ANR. The Hahne’s parking lot was designated as an ANR yet the 2006 Master Plan still stated that a parking lot was an acceptable development option. The Valley Rd lot (Gateway 2), Lackawanna, Pine/Bay St.
    The Master Plan draft covets the Bellevue Ave & train station parking lots for development.
    I’m not saying this Council would do it, but I want to get as many of the Council to go on record they will not use the ANR designation in Upper Montclair.

  14. I’m guessing it’s a subjective call on the part of the PB and I’m guessing even Hurlock won’t commit to your request. Although, oddly enough, Baskerville might. I’m with you on the Bellevue lots, the last thing we need there is a giant deck to service commuters from Verona, Cedar Grove and the Caldwells who don’t have train stations.

  15. Frank, I haven’t even considered lighting, but if we’re going to have developments then yes, of course we should have lighting ordinances.

  16. Seriously crazy cat, NJT and NJDOT (sponsors of the study upon which much of the MP is based) would love nothing more than a string of big decks at key stations which would then also give them reason to close the smaller ones, such as Mountain Avenue and Montclair Heights. They did the same to the Great Notch station in Little Falls when the MSU deck was built. They did start to curtail service to Montclair a few years agao, but too much of a fuss was made so they backed off that a bit.

  17. Good point, I usually take the train from Bellevue or Watchung but I’m sure in a town like Montclair the other stations get plenty of use. Plus property values go up within walking distance of stations.

  18. Two additional floors, for a total of 8, are acceptable only if they are in the basement.

    As to the design, a great example from this same architect is the relatively new Stop N Shop on Allwood Road, adjacent to Rte 3 in Clifton.

  19. frankgg is right, we need to do more like have a protest on that corner.

    This will be a terrible gateway eyesore and more permanent that the welcoming police tower on the Mission street end of the Montclair mile.

    There shouldn’t even be a 6 or 5 story building there let alone an 8. Certainly not of this width.

  20. Frank,

    In my experience on the Council, it seems like areas were designated ANR’s in order to extend tax abatements (PILOTS) to developers. It was felt like we “had to” offer PILOTs in order to “incent” builders to develop in Montclair.

  21. Cary, I think this is the case with most municipalities. They’re afraid to call the developers’ bluff. Bloomfield just ‘incentivized’ a self-storage facility with a 5 year abatement. Madness.

  22. “unmitigated gal – do you think you are of the minority viewpoint in the 3rd Ward? just wondering.”

    Frank Rubacky, given the responses here, no. Why do you ask? In fact, what are you asking?

  23. Sorry – no offense intended. You mentioned previously you were a 3rd Warder because I previously noticed your 1st Ward photo… and the only 3rd Warder I know on this site. I was curious for a couple of mundane reasons now not worth explaining.

  24. Cary,
    Yes, and furthermore, the current Mayor has pointed out that this Council is getting something like 95 cents on the dollar with their PILOT deals while previous Councils only got something like 40 cents.

  25. I would like to bring up one interesting point that has been talked about a bit. PILOTS – I am not sure this is a good way for developers to work in our town. Yes, I know that the TC and others, think this attracts developers but isn’t the point to expand our tax base? We had a difficult time receiving monies owed the town from the Sienna. If what we are after is creating a larger tax base then why? From our past collections of “payment in lieu of taxes” has been hard. We should just let the tax system work. Developers will build because they see profit. CentroVerde now wants 2 more floors because they see the new proposed Master Plan and want to make sure they are the first even if it hasn’t bee approved. Money drives these folks. Our town just roles over and over. If they want to build elsewhere then let then go elsewhere.

  26. Cary and Frank, thank you for the thoughtful discussion on here. I wish more could see the processing you both bring to a discussion.

  27. ” You mentioned previously you were a 3rd Warder because I previously noticed your 1st Ward photo… and the only 3rd Warder I know on this site.”

    Also a 3rd Warder, Frank, and against oversized development in ANY part of Montclair. If Montclairians buy into the belief that we can build ourselves out of the property tax mess in this town with this kind of development, we have our eyes wide shut.

  28. Frank R, no offense taken. As with Howard, I’d hate it anywhere in town, but yes as a 3rd Warder, and one within relatively close proximity, I’d hate to see it there. Even The Sienna is too big (especially with the other tall apartment building diagonally across the intersection), and that’s off the main drag. This sky-blocking, shadow-causing behemoth will be unpleasant to anyone driving Bloomfield Ave, not just the locals. If it’s the beginning of a trend, Bloomfield Ave will end up looking like Market Street in Newark. Beware the thin end of the wedge.

    Someone else was right, build the additional floors underground. Though they’d probably end up in one of those subterranean lakes. (Maybe they could have one of those bars with a giant aquarium in the wall down there.) Have the developers taken into consideration the amount of rain water that is going to flow down the mountain toward this place, like it does in The Siena a block further down? It’s a known flood zone.

    Missing the days it was a Rolls Royce/Jaguar/Lincoln Mercury/Volvo dealer.

  29. A resident who I highly respect and is very astute in these matters told me it will probably take a couple of these types of buildings to be built – and we will live with – before Montclair can fully come to grips with population growth and the appropriate what & where of high-rise development in Montclair.

    Centro Verde is the second example of where the Master Plan vision meets the pavement of reality – and both are in the 3rd Ward. If left to a 6 story maximum height, CV will be representative of what the central business could look like if built to existing zoning – a viewpoint Carol Willis of the PB has expressed. If built to the 8-10 stories, it will reflect the new C-1 vision of the MP under consideration.

    The 3rd Ward also represents the bulk of Montclair’s recent & future near-term capital improvements & asset purchases – along with the corresponding new revenue streams from PILOTs and asset sales. Hence, it will be the first to reflect the return on these investments.

    Lastly, it appears either Gateway 1 or 2 will be the test case for implementing a potential town-wide Transfer of Development Rights program. I believe the impact of a TDR program will easily exceed the magnitude of the concepts of Transects or Form Based Codes, if for no other reason then the codifying of it via ordinance will likely happen well before the other concepts.

    The mass & form of the Gateway Area in Need of Redevelopment is decided by the elected Council – not by the appointed Planing Board or HPC. The 3rd Ward Councilor’s viewpoints, as their representative, has not been quoted on the Centro Verde development or the Master Plan draft like others on the Council (e.g. Mayor Jackson, Councilors Baskerville, Hurlock & McMahon).

    These considerations form the basis for my curiosity about 3rd Ward opinion and if there is any consensus. Thank you both for sharing your thoughts.

  30. Thank you Frank Rubacky for tirelessly providing correct information and good explanations.
    What a nightmare that we have to be guinea pigs for a massive planning experiment thats not going to work.

  31. Frank Rubacky, am curious, is there anything the current council could do now with the plans already approved for CentroVerde? Even if the extra two stories aren’t approved, the CentroVerde plan was approved with six stories during the last council’s tenure.

  32. is the council angling to make Montclair into something like White Plains, NY? these renderings look like a smaller version of WP.

  33. cspn55, I was also thinking “White Plains” in about 10 years if this continues. No offense to White Plains, but it’s not a town in which I’d want to live.

  34. Frank,

    Thank you for urging us to look into TDR. After knocking my head against the wall trying to read dense planning laws, I finally called our Town Planner, Janice Talley, who was only too glad to describe to me how it would work.

    Specifically, for the parking lot — two story trade off, the way it would work is Montclair would separate development rights for the lot from the value of the property. It would price those rights based on existing zoning. Say in this case under existing zoning it would allow 51 units to be placed on the lot.

    A price for those 51 would units be set, and the developer would then be able to take those 51 units and build two stories which in total would have 51 units.

    Montclair gets $$$$, and locks in the park, FOREVER, as open space. It would never be open to development.

    Approval for selling the TDR, as well as using it for the two stories, would have to come from the Council.

    If you cannot really imagine what the proposed buildings would be like, do a drive by at
    Main St & N Harrison St in East Orange. Unfortunately, the buildings proposed for Montclair would not look anything like these buildings because they are much taller, bulkier and not as nice in design. These new East Orange Center buildings are very successfully sited and with their sixth floor being set back, they are not as overwhelming and are in harmony with the rest of the vintage buildings in their downtown context. They don’t overwhelm the neighboring church tower. Why is re development working in East Orange and in Montclair no? The answer is in the expertise. Robert Bowser, who has been the Mayor of East Orange for sixteen years, is a planner and comes from a family of planning, engineering, architecture and construction excellence. Mayor Bowser’s father, Engineer, Edward Bowser Sr. did most of the planning that successfully sewed the city back together after being torn apart by the Garden State Parkway and 280. Mayor Bowser’s brother Architect, Edward Jr. worked in the Paris Studio of the world famous Le Corbusier for several years. Generations before that, the Bowsers were among the founders of the New Jersey School of Engineering… that later became NJIT. East Orange’s re development is a success story.
    Montclair Center’s re development plans, as far as I am concerned, will result in a huge irreversible mistake.

  36. Cary,
    Thanks for delving into this. Did she happen to mention who will own the parkland and who is responsible for the upkeep?
    Again, just curiosity how this works.

    I cut though EO center when I went for jury duty (don’t ask why), butI was able to give it a passing glance and liked what I saw. I will make a point of going back to check it out. Thanks for this and the background info. Fascinating.

    The overall project is a done deal in my opinion, but there is considerable detail work & approvals remaining for a project this size. LCOR is a very professional organization and I think all parts of the municipal government, both volunteers & paid, are already working closely with them to make this project as successful as possible for both sides. I do think that if the 2 stories are approved, the Planning Board should ask the Historic Preservation Commission to review again for their input once architectural plans are ready. The devil is always in the details.

  37. Did I happen to mention that Montclair needs to look at having a lighting ordinance and a good start would to recognize the issue with language in the Master Plan?

  38. Go to
    Its already done. You can now put Montclair completely in the crapper with all the other towns the greeders out there have developed. Those are the same greeders who don’t live here and don’t care. WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO PUT ALL THE PEOPLE. You can’t park now or eat without a two week advance reservation in any of the better restaurants.
    Make it 100 stories at this point I don’t care I’m gonna move. This was such a beautiful town. No town anywhere has as many Victorian and Colonial houses. I cannot understand how such a beautiful town can be taken over by such egregious lack of scale and foresight. You people can’t stop spending and you have to rationalize this shit in order to make ends meet.
    Thank you Rich Mc Mahon who promised me that it wouldn’t happen. Now that Richville is about to make it debut in the wonderfully updated Montclair I hope all of the suckers in town who think their taxes will go down don’t hold their breath.
    Who are the suckers. All of us who don’t storm the council and make their lives miserable.
    Viince Lalomia

  39. Thanks UnmG and FrankR….whether is a done deal or not…or a devil in the details…its a HUGE MISTAKE to build a building block there of six stories or more… even if it was designed by Zaha Hadid…Skidmore Owens and Merril or McKimm Meade White (all back from the dead)…The HUGE MISTAKE lies in locating a tall building in that spot because it will ruin the enviroment of all of the properties uphill from it (instead of seeing the NYC Skyline and the Hudson River Delta… we’re just going to have a 24/7 view of the back of a buildings….we’ll lose the sunrise over the skyscrapers and the twinkling lights at night. (There should be a lighting ordinance against this!) This mistake will worsen with every building that could actually be built with the Master Plan for Montclair Center. There is absolutely no convincing reason to build these buildings at these heights… no guarantee that it would ease the high tax burden….FINE if they build near to Pine Street where these buildings would serve more of a purpose…. but not at Valley Road nor Orange Road or Fullerton…..NO!!!! NO!!!! NO!!!!

  40. We lost the Marboro Inn to the Plofker junk. We lost set out. Pay for sewage. My taxes have gone from 4500 to 20,000. There are street signs everywhere that aren’t need. Who can’t find downtown. Every field has become Astroturf. Kids aren’t better players
    People who are moving here now do not know small and really charming it
    How many names would it take to stop this. I am tired of talking . Frank how can I help.

  41. Frank GG,

    I am humbly in awe of your knowledge of and passion for Montclair. And while this project might not be an architectural masterpiece, it is not going to do anything to degrade everything that makes Montclair a wonderful community. I can’t imagine anyone is going to shed tears for the ugly car dealership that has sat vacant for years at the most prominent intersection of town. The beautiful old buildings that populate our downtown will still stand and the influx of people will add to the vibrancy and vitality of Montclair Center.

    I’ve lived in Montclair for 30 years. I’ve seen the town change, mostly for the better. For every loss (Marlboro Inn), there’s another gain (the sweeping revitalization of Walnut Street). Things change, buildings get built, businesses come and go. I can say with certainty that i would rather live in Montclair of 2013 than of 1983. Any day!

    Centro Verde (what a dumb name!) is not the end of Montclair (calm down Viince Lalomia!). It doesn’t make the town resemble White Plains or Newark or Calcutta. Heck, it might even have a lovely rooftop bar where us shmucks can sip a cocktail and gaze out on the NY skyline to the east and wave, grinning to the two or three houses on the hill that will gaze down on us.

    Have faith Frank GG. First round is on me…

  42. Relax People
    While I think your description of having a drink is not a bad idea. Maybe it could be on the the first floor.
    Why can’t we plan for no development. The town is beautiful as is. I am a contractor in the big city where the idiotic notion is that design will make you more important. People find relief in things that aren’t so “perfect”. Simple things.
    The Marboro Inn wasn’t perfect but there was common sense to it. It could have been renovated, maybe not make a huge profit but it would have character.
    Faith is not what it’s about. It’s about money.
    This is a huge blunder that will not EVER be able to undo.

  43. Well, here’s one blunder that was undone:

    But there are plenty of examples of the ‘special character’ of Upper Montclair still standing:

    This is also rather special:

    The glory of Montclair:

    It doesn’t get much better than this:

    Our current “gateway” to Montclair Center:

    It would be a travesty to irreparably harm all of this.

  44. For the nostalgists, here’s an image of the Hinck Building back in the day when Montclair wasn’t so shy about its status as a city *and* a suburb (i.e., the 1940s):

    Check out that garish big-city signage! (I love it, by the way.)

    Herman Hupfeld (songwriter responsible for “As Time Goes By”) was so fond of the Grill Leon that he wrote a song for the place: “Are you wondering where to go for fun and recreation without squandering too much dough?…” :

  45. Frank,

    The Town would still own the land, and be responsible for the upkeep of the park. Go over to Edgemont and see how ill the town takes care of parks.

    I wonder what the price is that we are receiving.

    And if we’re so interested in using this mechanism to preserve open space, there are other town owned properties in Montclair to do this with.

  46. I have to agree the photos show Upper Montclair as hopelessly old fashion, but we like our tried & true vertical hierarchy. At ground level, we have our pavements, grass & shrubs. Then we like our residential & commercial buildings just so tall to allow our bigger public & religious institutions to peak out above them, then our old growth trees, then a mountain and our favorite & highest feature, lot’s of sun & blue sky.

  47. vcavu, It is about the money and nothing more.

    If you really are so attached to seeing the sky and the sun, then perhaps you should practice lying on your back on top of the double yellow line running down the middle of Bloomfield Avenue. Presumably, that view of the Montclair skyline is still protected.

  48. willjames…thanks for those images and perspectives ….those places really need to be re thought! I didnt mind the Olimpic Shop design….it was like an Emilio Pucci tie….trendy and ghastley! I was looking for a pic of what was there originally… a much uglier building nicknamed the Trunk Building…because it looked like a trunk!

    I share frank rubacky’s, idratherbeat63’s and vcavu’s perspectives.

  49. Hopefully, since the buildings will be build, they ‘ll bring positive livelyness and a new life to an area that truly is in need of developing.

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