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.
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.