Montclair Planning Board: More Master Plan Revisions, Still No Action on CentroVerde

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An artist's of CentroVerde Building 2, with eight stories, as seen from Bloomfield Avenue approaching Valley Road from the west
An artist’s rendering of CentroVerde Building 2, with eight stories, as seen from Bloomfield Avenue approaching Valley Road from the west

The Montclair Planning Board heard from representatives of the companies behind Montclair Acquisition Partners (MAP), which is building the CentroVerde complex, regarding their proposal to add two stories to the project’s main building in exchange for developing a park out of the Valley Road parking lot.   Pinnacle’s Brian Stolar and LCOR’s Jim Driscoll offered detailed plans with three-dimensional slides depicting the proposed changes, but few Planning Board members seemed interested in supporting them.  The developers will return for the next Planning Board meeting.

Stolar and Driscoll said that the two stories added to CentroVerde Building 2 would have a seven-foot setback at the fifth floor, with another setback of the same length at the seventh floor.  While the lower six floors would still have a façade using brick and stone, the top two floors would have a glass front, with a fifteen-foot setback on the corner of Valley Road and the proposed CentroVerde Drive that would incorporate an outdoor gathering space for the club room for the residents.  Forty units would be added with the two floors, with four more affordable housing units added to the 30 already included.

Driscoll also addressed the compensation in the Orange Road parking deck for the parking spaces that would be lost if the Valley Road parking lot were developed in to a public gathering space.  He said that while the concepts of self-parking, tandem-assist parking, and full valet service may be needed at certain times, they were able to add more spaces in an area of the deck.

“So, what was originally planned for 48 spaces is now over a hundred, and that’s because we’re utilizing an automated system as part of that area, so we’ve picked up about a net of sixty additional spaces,” Driscoll said.  He added that the extra space will make tandem-assist and full valet parking less likely while freeing up space for commuters and residents.

Board Chairman John Wynn still had problems with the western façade of Building 2 looming over the Thai Chef restaurant on Bloomfield Avenue, which has no setbacks.  He agreed that the sight of the upper floors would disappear for those walking down Bloomfield Avenue but would still stick out from the vantage point of pedestrians across the avenue and on the corner of Bell Street.

An artist's rendering of an eight-story CentroVerde Building 2, its western façade overlooking the Thai Chef restaurant.  The bulk of the western end displeased several Planning Board members, including Chairman John Wynn.
An artist’s rendering of an eight-story CentroVerde Building 2, its western façade overlooking the Thai Chef restaurant. The bulk of the western end displeased several Planning Board members, including Chairman John Wynn.

Chairman Wynn asked if a setback could be provided for that wall.  Stolar said there wasn’t much more they could do.  He said that the most that could be done is to increase the fifth-floor setback by 40 percent, but this would require a redesign of a stairwell and make some housing units significantly smaller while eliminating others.

Board member Carole Willis was inclined to find the proposed park not worth the trouble.  “The site is limited, so the challenge of the site just may make it not possible to overcome the bulkiness of an eight-story building, so I’m troubled with it,” she said.  “I would not want to waste their time coming back with just another couple of feet and still [have] a massive building that has to be looked at by our community.”  She came way thinking that a large building was not suitable for the site.

Mayor Robert Jackson was inclined to give the developers time to find a plausible solution to the bulk to allow a transfer of development rights for the proposed park. Board member Martin Schwartz was also willing to wait another two weeks for the chance at a workable plan before the Planning Board’s October 7 meeting.

“If there’s a way for you to work magic and change the articulation,” Schwartz said, “everyone here would be happy to reconsider.”

Montclair Planning Director Janice Talley spent most of the rest of the meeting guiding the Planning Board through proposed changes for the master plan pertaining to Montclair Center and its many facets.  She identified various weaknesses in the township’s Bloomfield Avenue corridor, particularly with regard to underutilized properties along Bloomfield Avenue and south of Grove Street, along with the need to develop marginally used parking lots and recycle vacant buildings.

To circulate development more eagerly along Bloomfield Avenue, Talley proposed making the Lackawanna Plaza area and the gateway area to be occupied by CentroVerde part of a Montclair Center Core C1 district, which would allow six-story buildings, and the underutilized properties along Glenridge Avenue part of a Montclair Center Village, which would permit four-story buildings.  The village district would serve as a buffer zone between the high-density downtown area and lower-density residential neighborhoods.

Talley said the proposed changes would provide some flexibility for developers and allow incentives to add more stories in buildings in the C1 zone, where buildings up to ten stories could be permitted, in the form of public amenities and affordable housing. The C1 zone would include both sides of Grove Street between Bloomfield and Glen Ridge Avenues, as well as Lackawanna Plaza.    Upper-story setbacks would also be required.

Chairman Wynn recalled that tall buildings were proposed for Lackawanna Plaza only a few years earlier.  ”I remember the drawings, and the drawings looked huge,” he said.  He felt it was necessary to continue looking at the proposed changes in Talley’s recommendations, and he also opined that the area around the police station, where redevelopment has been proposed, ought to be re-designated as part of a Center Core C2, instead of a C1, district in which buildings would be fixed at six or seven stories.

Also, the Planning Board looked over proposed master plan changes for the South End.  Talley emphasized a need to improve the appearances for the northern and southern gateways to the the South End business district on Orange Road, no landscaping and lighting, better pedestrian access to the stores from the parking lot, and the need to slow down traffic.  One of her proposed changes to the master plan was sure to please South End residents; she disapproved of opening up Orange Road at the business district to two-way traffic.

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48 COMMENTS

  1. What a mistake to build tall and massive building blocks like this in Montclair Center. Uphill, places like the Montclair Arts Museum will have their NYC Skyline views obstructed. These are just massive buildings with no feelings.

  2. The artist rendition looks suspiciously like shots from video game Grand Theft Auto….. And that’s not a compliment!

    Who’s idea was it to have that car coming RIGHT AT ME so prominently in the picture? These are the kind of TERRIBLE basic artistic decisions that always gives me pause– because if they cannot find a decent “artist rendition,” what else are they skimping on? Or worse, is this the taste level of those involved?

    @ frankgg, if folks are at the Montclair Art Museum looking at views of NYC, the Art Museum has bigger problems than an obstructed view.

  3. What’s always troubling about these renderings for new developments is the forced perspective that makes the roads look wider and background sky bigger and existing structures smaller, or sometimes not there at all. If we want “walkable” neighborhoods, the setback requirements for new buildings should bigger….and the wall of four stories should be broken up with entry ways and additional setbacks. SIx shouldn’t even be allowed, but we already have the Sienna and now that we’ll get eight we’ll wind up with ten next time and then more the next time. If we are going to scream about how great form based codes are, then we should at least be able to limit heights.

  4. I would like to better understand the magic that has made so many additional parking spots appear. Why hasn’t that already been done if it is possible?

    I admit to a significant dose of skepticism.

    …Andrew

  5. “Who elected Talley?”

    To be fair, as far as I can tell this “build to the sky” bias originates with our current council.

    I find this entire movement upward to be disturbing. If I wanted to live in a land of canyons, I’d have moved to a city. Why are some that claim to love this town so eager to bury it under oversized development?

    …Andrew

  6. As a video gamer I LOVE that first picture ! Horrible graphics and each residential story is the same height as the car. If that was used in a real world presentation then whomever used it needs to lose their job and whomever viewed it without laughing their ass off at the person also needs to lose their job.

  7. The building boom, and Master Plan, actually originated with our previous council and is being taken to even further heights with this one.

  8. Andrew,
    As I understand it, the automated/valet/tandem-assisted parking configuration will allow the 6 story deck’s original self-park capacity of 475 spaces to increase now to 746 spaces. Of the 78 public spaces, at least 40% will be valet. The parking deck will also have solar panels installed on a truss system above the 6th floor. I would think making Building 2 eight stories will allow for the more expensive upper units to have a better, unobstructed Southerly view.
    The parking configuration strategy has been vetted by two separate parking experts for the PB. So, sorry, no magic.

  9. PS Andrew,
    I’m anticipating your possible thinking and I don’t think you need to worry about the traffic. That part of Bloomfield Ave has a daily volume of about 29,000 vehicles. Whatever portion of these 746 cars that will use Bloomfield Ave should not substantially affect the surrounding area’s traffic load.

  10. Considering how matter-of-fact it has become for architectural offices to prepare highly accurate 3-d views of their designs, complete with accurate context, accurate sun shadows, and accurate topography, it’s a real head scratcher as to why these Centro Verde presentations do not show any evidence of utilizing any type of software that resembles industry standards.

  11. Gosh, Spiro. One might even think it’s a deliberate attempt to minimize the visual impact of a structure that is this big.

  12. My concern now, looking at the 2nd rendering, is that the Leach Building (next to the Police Dept) is going to fall over onto Bloomfield Ave.

    PS: Pinnacle provided sun/shade renderings based on the massing dimensons way back during the preliminary site review. Maybe this was part of the presentation last night and simply was not included in this article.

  13. I was mistaken. Pinnacle did not provide sun/shade renderings. But, I suppose one could simply go to the Church St side of Sienna and get a good approximation of the shadows cast. I believe Sienna is 7 stories. Both Sienna & CV North facades are almost parallel in their orientations.

    cliu048 – valet parking is for the public, visitors & tenants (residential & commercial).

  14. I understand valet parking. If this is such a boon to parking volume, why are we not using it already in town? Haven’t we a parking problem? Wouldn’t this permit more permit users at the rail station lots, for example? What about the parking issues around the schools? If we make the school lots valet, how much better would that be for the schools’ neighbors?

    Seriously: if this is a good idea, why not make a lot of use of it?

    I don’t know what “tandem-assisted” or “automated” parking are. An explanation would be most welcome.

    …Andrew

  15. Looking at the rendering, it appears that there are no street-level doors along Bloomfield Avenue; does this mean that no retail establishments will be accessible from the sidewalk?

  16. Andrew (AGideon) — this project was approved in June of 2012, when the prior council was in office.
    Also, a simple google search shows that one of the biggest proponents of the project was former mayor Jerry Fried, who sat on the planning board at the time it went through.
    Here’s from a June 26, 2012 article in the Montclair Times:

    As his parting move on the Montclair Planning Board, outgoing Mayor Jerry Fried, who will leave office this coming Sunday, threw his firm support behind the project, which the developers have branded CentroVerde.

    Fried said he was happy with how the design had evolved thanks to the developers making tweaks based on feedback from the Planning Board and municipal Historic Preservation Commission.

    The mayor also said the complex would be adding much-needed commercial activity and population density to Montclair’s main business hub while not exacerbating parking or traffic conditions.

    “When I look at Bloomfield Avenue, I see many underperforming buildings,” Fried said. “I wish there was more going on. I wish there were more people, more commercial space. To me this delivers those things in very beautiful buildings that look very urban in a way that I am not afraid of in any way, and I think of this as being a really good model for more development in Montclair.

    “Building up on Bloomfield Avenue is what we, as a town, need to do,” the mayor said. “We need to be not afraid of that.”

  17. “I don’t know what “tandem-assisted” or “automated” parking are. An explanation would be most welcome.”

    – attendants will park the cars like a NYC parking lot…head-in bumper to bumper or stacking them.

    “What about the impact on traffic near Hillside and the Pre-K buildings?”

    – the PB had traffic consultants evaluate the impact and it seems the surrounding roadways have the capacity. I think they did make a recommendation to add a left turn lane on Valley Southbound and that will likely happen when they can find parking space for the police or move the police dept.

  18. Based on the renderings shown, I don’t believe that the setback on the side facing bloomfield ave is enough. it makes the road claustrophobic for sure. The renderings of our “gimme” park also does not account for the widening of valley road which should account for cars parked on both sides and one lane of traffic going each way.

  19. I know the council, planning board and Fried mean well, but this pink and beige stuff is not “urban”. It looks bad now, it will look worse in a decade when it’s really dated. The building with Elevation Burger and my attorney is a great example of urban architecture – it has a nice industrial feeling and it’s a great repurposing of an existing space. Or even the Luna Stage building that Plofker is adding onto. Or the old Gibbs School, or the Church that is now updated office space. If we have to develop, and we want to attract younger singles and couples, this fake luxury stuff is not as appealing as industrial and loft like spaces. Like the Walnut Street Lofts and the Silk Mill Lofts in Bloomfield. Keep it simple and industrial and contemporary.

  20. Frank R., at first I thought maybe you were just pulling a fast one on ol’ Kay here, almost doubling the size of the parking lot using just some solar panels and mirrors…then I realized, you weren’t joshin’!

    Merciful heaven, I would rather park a mile away than have people driving my car around all day in order to rearrange the lot, like a game of Othello, or putting my baby up on one of those lifts (or even worse, on the *bottom* shelf!!) Here in downtown Newark there has indeed been an incident that I know of where the lift broke and the upper car crashed down upon the lower. No thankee.

    p.s. at least they are now giving a hint of the shadows that will be cast over the area starting at oh, I’d guess from about 1PM on…

  21. Currently, you can drive Bloomfield Avenue from Branch Brook Park to Caldwell College and only pass 5 buildings over 4 stories tall, the largest being the 8 story Frank Leo Building in Bloomfield Center. If this current town council has it’s way, we’ll match that from the Glen Ridge Border to Orange Road. With a spineless Planning Board, the height of each building will be higher based on the variances given each predecessor. Welcome to Montclair Canyon.

  22. “attendants will park the cars like a NYC parking lot…head-in bumper to bumper or stacking them.”

    How is this not valet parking? How is it “automated”?

    But those details aside, I do grasp how having parking attendants will make better use of the space. What I don’t understand is why, if this is such a great idea, we’re not doing it elsewhere. It is, after all and as you note, popular on Manhattan. And we do have parking issues elsewhere in town.

    Is it just that nobody has thought of it until now? That’s not impossible, but I’d be a bit surprised were that the case.

    …Andrew

  23. A valet operation is more costly.
    The developers wanted more density. It apparently was the most cost-effective solution to meet the township parking requirements.
    As I have been told, Montclair doesn’t currently have a parking problem.

  24. Currently, the entire sidewalk is blocked off with fencing. So now, pedestrians are subjected to walking along the gutter by the construction site. It’ll be years before anyone can use that side of Bloomfield Ave. again!

  25. Is it Plofker building on top of Luna Stage? The new addition totally blocks the beautiful view of the skyline on my daily drive as I’m stopped at the Bloomfield Ave light on South Mountain.

    In the grand scheme of things this a minor cripe to be sure, but it just seems like a microcosm for developers slowly, but surely chipping away at Montclair’s beauty.

  26. A bigger pile of shit in our little hamlet, I cannot imagine. All enabling parties should be crucified for allowing such “architorture”.

    The renderings suck. In fact, they are an insult, as they are saying screw you, you dupes. You’re gonna eat our crap-tastic cooking and like it (or not), because we don’t care. We don’t care enough to hire a firm (or a consultant) to produce 3D images and animations that sell the project, that are photo-realistic. Every hear of HDR, radiocity, high-res texture mapping, light sources that throw accurate shadows, I mean this is just being lazy, cheap, and/or showing callus disregard for the town.

    It’s just a flaming bag of used dog food, which we will later find (after it has been built – read: after the pimping and whoring has been wrapped up) has no bottom remaining, and as we pick up the bag (after stomping out the flames), leaving us with just another larger mess to clean up or more likely, just live with.

    As usual, we deserve the government we get. Way to go voters. Montclair rate-payers getting snookered for a few pieces of silver, again.

    If you haven’t watched Mike Judge’s ‘Idiocracy’, make an appointment with yourself and check it out. You’ll feel right at home Montclair.

  27. I’m reposting this very important and unacceptable disattention that Spiro T. Q. brings to light ~
    “Considering how matter-of-fact it has become for architectural offices to prepare highly accurate 3-d views of their designs, complete with accurate context, accurate sun shadows, and accurate topography, it’s a real head scratcher as to why these Centro Verde presentations do not show any evidence of utilizing any type of software that resembles industry standards.”

    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.

  28. STQ:
    The 3-D rendering suggests the Leach building is similar or taller than CV Bldg 2. The Leach building is, as I understand it, is 79 feet high. CV Bldg 2, as I understand it is currently approved for 6 stories at 75′ maximum roof height. Assuming 2 more floors at 12.5′ each, CV Bldg 2 would be about 100′ tall.

    Of course, that excludes the stairway tower that is not counted towards the maximum height.
    A picky point for the PB…doesn’t the stairway tower on the Northwest corner have to be set back 10′ to be excluded from the maximum roof height calculation?

  29. Why should Montclair stop at 8 stories. Because the Montclair counsel is trying to make this town into more of a city than a suburban town, we should start building sky scrappers, maybe have one taller than One World Trade Center? Or how about we keep Montclair the way it is and limit the height of buildings, BECAUSE THIS IS NOT A CITY, AND NEVER WILL BE!

  30. Frank R,

    OK. I read through all the TDR stuff and I’m left with one question: Who gets the benefit? Is the Town getting a better deal, or is the developer, or someone else?

    How would this be different, in terms of benefit, if it weren’t a TDR but a simple change in the redevelopment agreement?

    I should quickly add: BENEFIT TO MONTCLAIR. I understand the overall benefit to the planning region, or the state, or the nation, or the human race might be different, but I’m interested in MONTCLAIR.

  31. Cary,
    In my mind, it’s like any property contract, both benefit. The sender (seller) is compensated and the receiver (buyer) compensates. Montclair could buy a couple of artificial turf fields for the compensation Mr DiSalvo has suggested is within the realm of possibility.

    Good question about why the Council doesn’t just change the maximum building height. I don’t feel I can fully address it. I suspect it has to do with revenue opportunity and/or NJ municipal land use law.

    As you might know, there is not a Redevelopment Plan yet in place for Gateway 2 – which includes the Valley Rd parking lot. It will be interesting if the Gateway 2 Redevelopment Plan, due later this year or next, includes a TDR provision from the start. If so, I would expect all of Montclair’s other ANR Development Plans to eventually have this provision.

  32. Frank,

    I don’t see Montclair receiving ANY compensation under a TDR for the two extra stories. The sending entity gets paid, the receiving entity gets to pay.

    Your point in the other thread, about possible TDR’s for a hotel that doesn’t get built is “genius.”

    We are such “babes in the woods” and the people making these proposals really have the knowledge.

  33. By the way, Frank:

    HOW DO YOU KNOW ALL THIS STUFF??

    It’s like you’re plugged into this cosmic Montclair iCloud!

    Good for us!

    Knowledge is Power. Glad you’re working for the community!

  34. Thanks Cary for the feedback. It has something to do with the way I’m wired.

    Re: “I don’t see Montclair receiving ANY compensation under a TDR for the two extra stories. The sending entity gets paid, the receiving entity gets to pay.”

    – The township is the sending party in the instance of selling the Valley Rd parking lot development rights. Per the Mayor’s remarks, this is a potential 7 figure payday.

    I inferred that the developers, LCOR/MAG, gain ownership of the parking lot land, albeit deed restricted to remain open space, and build the new park space. I really don’t know how this works or if the cost of the park is out of our 7 figure payday.

  35. Who’s rendering of Bloomfield Avenue is that? If Bloomfield Avenue were truly that wide, and cars that big, we could easily handle 20 story buildings! We either have a really bad artist, or someone was standing over his or her shoulder dictating.

  36. Four stories should be the max anywhere in Montclair. Otherwise it will be an eyesore for someone. Namely the residents of Montclair. These type of buildings are always made with cheap materials and never look good in my opinion. And that’s true when the building is brand new. Imagine 10 years down the road. No thank you!

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