Montclair Planning Board Approves MC Hotel and Montclarion in Marathon Meeting

BY  |  Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014 8:23am  |  COMMENTS (40)

The MC Front View (Revised) Credit BOGZA

The MC Front View (Revised) Credit BOGZA

Montclair Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon, sitting through a meeting of the Montclair Planning Board, opined that August 11 was an historic day for the board, as it had approved one gateway project – the Montclarion II apartment building – and was about to approve another – the MC Hotel.  But a concern about parking at the hotel raised by board member Peg Seip 10 minutes before midnight dragged the meeting past the bewitching hour and into August 12, making it an historic two days for the board.  The board did in fact approve both projects, after a few revisions had been made to the former and  numerous revisions had been made to the latter.

The proposed MC Hotel at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Orange Road, before (left) and after architectural revisions

The proposed MC Hotel at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Orange Road, before (left) and after architectural revisions

The follow-up hearing on the MC Hotel didn’t get started until 10:30 PM, when architect Michael Maturo of DYAMI Architecture presented a revised version of his original design that greatly impressed board members.   The basic design was the same, but the facade’s red brick walls and silver metallic corner element were replaced by softer, more traditional tones of beige and bronze, with more window space in the cylindrical corner element and Craftsman-style brass shingling at the porte-cochere entrance.  Narrower concentric tubes were used to crate the halo at the rooftop to give it a more subtle look.  

Horizontal banding was also included to break up the mass, with windows at the second floor level of the southern elevation complimented by an electronic art board that Maturo said could carry advertising.  Planning Director Janice Talley said that the art board could be used to display artistic patterns, but not ads, which are prohibited by Montclair’s signage ordinance.  Traffic expert George Kelly, meanwhile, presented a turning radius diagram showing that trucks could enter and leave the loading dock area without inconveniencing opposing traffic on Orange Road.  The driveway will also feature 25-foot-wide aprons.


The proposed MC Hotel along Bloomfield Avenue, after architectural revisions

The proposed MC Hotel along Bloomfield Avenue, after architectural revisions

Board member Martin Schwartz said that the redesign efforts of the subcommittee he has chaired, which included input from Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) member Grace Lynch and former HPC Chairman Ira Smith, among others, made for a happier outcome of what could have been a disastrous final design, even though Montclair did not include the block in an historic district, which would have given the HPC a greater role in the process, as he felt the township should have done.  Responding to misgivings about the hotel’s bulk, he said that the bulk had been allowed in the redevelopment plan approved in 2011 before he, and some other members, including the Mayor and Councilor McMahon, had joined the board.

The proposed MC Hotel along Orange Road,  after architectural revisions

The proposed MC Hotel along Orange Road, after architectural revisions

Board member Peg Seip delayed a final vote on the hotel resolution by bringing up concerns that parking had not been addressed as thoroughly as design concerns, suggesting that a nightmare could be in the offing.  Planning Board Chairman John Wynn rhetorically asked her why the hotel’s developers wouldn’t consider such a thing when their chances for a successful investment were at high stakes, and Pinnacle CEO Brian Stolar, noting that he will give the township quarterly assessments of parking for two years after the project’s completion, said that he and his associates have given thought to every last parking detail.

The proposed MC Hotel at its southern elevation, after architectural revisions

The proposed MC Hotel at its southern elevation, after architectural revisions

Although resident Alan Shelton feared a hotel would increase traffic coming into town, Montclair Business Improvement District Director Luther Flurry said it would add value to Montclair’s quality of life, and the board members agreed, with Wynn adding that the developers did a commendable job designing a building for such a small property when a larger and more suitable one was unavailable.  Although the hotel’s developers plan to meet further with Schwartz’s subcommittee to fine-tune architectural details, the hotel was in fact approved by the board.


The proposed MC Hotel's rooftop bar, after architectural revisions

The proposed MC Hotel’s rooftop bar, after architectural revisions

The proposed Montclarion II apartemnt building along Bloomfield Avenue, after architectural revisions

The proposed Montclarion II apartemnt building along Bloomfield Avenue, after architectural revisions

Montclarion II Approved with Conditions

After weeks of being relegated to the background by, ironically, the hotel, developer Richard Polton and his associates finally presented their revised design for Montclarion II between Bloomfield Avenue and Pine Street.  Architect Paul Sionas discussed the original tower design on the southeastern corner of the building, which had met with the disapproval of Chairman Wynn at the board’s May 12 meeting.  The new design, originally meant to be unveiled on June 23 but delayed because of the master plan revisions,eliminated the tower (lowering the corner by eighteen and a half feet) and added glass along the eastern and southern elevations of the building.  The building was also set back eight feet from the eastern edge of the property line, allowing a pedestrian path and landscaping along the building’s eastern end.  Sionas also moved the staircase shaft from the southeastern corner to the northeastern corner and moved the elevator shaft to the eastern corner with the elimination of the corner tower, and rooftop space was also reduced as a result of the reconfiguration.   Thirteen of the 40 units would have balconies, and an additional affordable -housing unit with three bedrooms would be added.

Sionas’ revisions also featured art-display windows and decorative grilles to hide the parking area that takes up most of the space directly behind the facade along the incline on Bloomfield Avenue.  The retail space next to the southeastern corner would still comprise 1,500 square feet.

Engineer J. Michael Petri testified that a few deviations would be needed from standards of the Eastern Gateway redevelopment plan, such as the need to accommodate parking set back 2.45 feet from the property, not four feet standardized by the redevelopment plan,  indoor bicycle racks away from the entrance instead of just outside the main entrance,  18.5 percent of open rooftop space as opposed to a requirement of at least 25 percent, and retail space comprising 48.5 percent of facade space, rather than the standard of 50 percent.  The board suggested adding retail space to the apartment lobby such as a coffee shop that could be open to non-residents during daytime hours to liven up the area, which Petri was amenable to.

The proposed Montclarion II apartment building at Bloomfield Avenue and Pine Street, after architectural revisions

The proposed Montclarion II apartment building at Bloomfield Avenue and Pine Street, after architectural revisions

Board  member Carole Willis was unsatisfied with the building’s mass, saying that even though the building is designed to look like a four-story building, given that the two lower levels of parking are hidden by the appearance of a single story along the incline on Bloomfield Avenue, the Montclarion II would still technically be six stories and that a stepback one story lower than the top floor was needed to blend in with shorter adjacent structures.  In a dialogue between Willis and Petri about how the fourth residential story, actually the fifth story overall, was a sixth story that recalled the contract scene from the Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera (“The first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract”), and how a lower stepback was needed, Petri explained as best as possible under the circumstances how a lower stepback would make the rental of upper-floor apartments less lucrative.

“The highest floor of this building has probably what will be considered the prime units, the most expensive units, the penthouse units in the building,” Petri said.  He said that these units  wouldn’t have balconies with a lower stepback.

Also, traffic expert Nicholas Verderese examined the traffic that would be generated going in and out of the Montclarion II and how it would impact the block. He testified that the impact would be negligible, given the transit opportunities available and the fact that the parking entrance on Pine Street would be farther from Bloomfield Avenue than the entrance to the Bay Street train station.

The Montclarion II was approved with conditions adding more decorative grille work along the western at the ground level of the western facade, a plan to manage public art along the Bloomfield Avenue façade, a suggestion by Mayor Robert Jackson to spend $15,000 per unit to refurbish affordable housing units in existing Montclarion building, and a reconsideration of the fiber cement fiber boards for the top floor.  Wynn complimented Sionas for a design revision that added more character to the building and a tremendous effort at handling the height and story problems caused by the incline.


  1. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 12, 2014 @ 11:21 am

    Based on the conditions attached to the Planning Board’s approval of the Montclarion application, I’m guessing light pollution terminology and concepts are not going to make it into the Non-Unified Land Use & Circulation Plan.

    One condition asked the parking lots lights to be fully shielded so lighting would not unnecessarily affect upper story residents. Another condition asked the building facade light fixtures to also esthetically uplight to the facade in addition to downlighting it.

    A lack of design standards.

  2. POSTED BY kay  |  August 12, 2014 @ 11:56 am

    Notwithstanding the weird chef’s-hat halo thing, and my overall dismay that such a giant, hulking monolith was permitted in the first place, I do like the color scheme of the redesigned MC hotel better than the original strip mall red-and-white hospital look.

    Just goes to show what a little A&C style will do for darn near anything!

  3. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 12, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

    A HUGE sigh of relief and feeling of gratefulness for the improved hotel design! Its actually going to be stylish. Although I disapprove of the huge building volume and height, this mistake was made years ago in planning and not the fault of the project’s architect or developer. Its remarkable that the developer asked the planning board for guidance and collaborated with a design sub committee. My conserns regarding a stonger more traditional building base and more regular window articulation to harmonize with the existing buildings were met. The colors are much better, I like the bronze accents and digital monitors for media and artwork on the street level facades. The design improvements have actually exceeded what I thought would have been possible in such short time. The roof bar reminds me of the one at the Standard in Chelsea and I’m actually looking forward to going there! (will it also have a pool?) i just wish that the project could have one less floor.

  4. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  August 12, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

    Looks a lot better.

  5. POSTED BY whippersnapper  |  August 12, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

    I agree with Frank. One less floor would look much better. Take out the second to last full floor and drop the set-back floor down and you have a whole other building. New colors look much better, though from the side that cement/ creme color looks too bland for my liking. Was stopped on bfield going east the other day right at the construction fence. Boy is this thing close to the street. So much for the town increasing the width of the sidewalk.

  6. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 12, 2014 @ 5:37 pm

    Regarding the Montclairion project, I’ve always admired Paul Sionas’s work around town and don’t understand why they made him remove the tower. It looked better and even John Nolen’s 1909 vision for Montclair called for a skyline dotted with spires and towers.

  7. POSTED BY willjames  |  August 12, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

    I’ve got to admit, this is a much more attractive design. Congratulations to the squeaky wheels.

  8. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 12, 2014 @ 8:30 pm

    A round of applause to the Planning Board, Chairman Wynn, the design review sub committee and especially to Martin Schwartz for his tireless dedication. I feel a positive change.

  9. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 12, 2014 @ 8:57 pm

    Not from me…. but, everyone already knew that.

  10. POSTED BY catmusic  |  August 12, 2014 @ 11:19 pm

    wow… not one, but two ugly, cheap looking buildings.
    as bad as mc-mansions.
    man, what happened to architecture?

  11. POSTED BY martinschwartz  |  August 13, 2014 @ 6:57 am

    Some clarifications. First, the township does not “control” design for these projects. The input we have is limited to the terms specified in the two redevelopment plans.

    We could have had effective control for the hotel and likely would have reduced the bulk and mass there if ten years ago, the Remsen Town Council then (or subsequent Councils) included the hotel-DCH auto dealership site in the then expanded Downtown Commercial Historic District.

    The Remsen team was warned directly that we would be in exactly this position with a coming new development at some point.

    If the site was put into a HP district, this would have authorized the Township’s HPC to essentially act like an architectural review board (they are not allowed officially in NJ.) Then, between the PB design specifications and parameters in the redevelopment plan and the HPC, in all likelihood the scale of the project would have been reduced (the plan does call for in-scale development) and the buildings more in character with the downtown to start. We would not have been scrambling here like today.

    I have criticized the planning board in the past for not following its own guidelines at this site and for arrogance in not seeking assistance for design review with projects in the same way they get help with parking evaluations. However, this goes back now 3 years for this project and some members sitting today, including myself, the Mayor and Councilor McMahon — were not even on the board at that time.

    Instead, it was only after the current PB “referred” the original hotel design to the HPC for a mandated advisory opinion for the site plan and the public began expressing its views openly — that the developer’s design “issues” came to the fore. The applicant then realized a “no” vote was possible and sought help. This is when and why the design sub-committee was created. However, the bulk, mass and height issues were never on the table as part that re-design review.

    Why? Because the planning board, under the Fried administration and their two Council appointees, had already approved those parameters when they voted on the original redevelopment plan. Neither the PB nor that Council sought input from architects on the hpc, or from other professionals in town in reviewing those plan parameters. Get it?

    Should our Township have much more oversight of projects at this scale and importance? Yes. We need to start thinking about the township like our European friends treat their central cities. As an economic asset. And part of our marketability is our character. That’s why people come here to shop and go to our restaurants and it’s why new homeowners are willing to pay taxes twice as high as other towns nearby – because of our “village” like experience.

    Once we start to change that feel significantly and lose our charm, the economic motivation to come here is limited – ergo our tax base will start to suffer long term. So in the same way we see our schools and diversity as a strategic part of “Montclair” – as assets to protect — and continue to invest in – we need to do the same with our architecture and character. Frank G’s concerns are really not just aesthetics. They are also smart economics.

  12. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 13, 2014 @ 8:11 am

    I think you need to clarify your clarifications.

    The Council does control the design in an Area of Redevelopment. One only has to look at the focus element issue to understand this.

    Due to our very own §347-136 (including the MLUL citations), your point about increased HPC influence by extending the MC Historic District Westward is surprisingly wrong in the case of Gateway 1. The Remsen Council didn’t kill that idea…it was the inaction during the Fried Council. The Montclair Art Museum didn’t want it. I’m sure the two are not connected.

    As to the rest, I don’t think we need more oversight. I’m not even sure what more oversight even means.

    I do think we need to have a better Master Plan with much better individual elements, both the required ones and the optional ones. I think we need better enforcement of our current ordinances. I think the Planning Board has to, once and for all, come up with some guidelines & standards, for addressing their numerous waivers & variances. Finally, I think the PB should publish an annual report, like the ZBA, that lists all applications and their various waivers & variances. That may be an eye opener.

  13. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 13, 2014 @ 8:18 am

    Sorry, I meant there were two points above about the HPC clarification:

    Pt 1: “Due to our very own §347-136 …” shows the HPC would not have any increased responsibilities in an HD.
    Pt 2: Just to correct the impression that the Remsen Council solely prevented the HD extension.

  14. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 13, 2014 @ 10:43 am

    In the 25 years that I lived in Italy there were 2 givens… 1) Older buildings are unequivocally preserved and protected by laws 2) Thanks to the remarkable built environment, Tourism was the 2nd biggest economic driving force.

    Ten years ago at Council Meetings, I commented that if Montclair’s remarkable built environment was preserved and promoted, the community could have a thriving hyperlocal economy thanks to Cultural Toursim and Hospitality (visiting our historic residential neighborhoods…. a mecca for “house freaks” (like myself and many others)…our museums and our downtown and our older buildings could then be recycled through addaptive re use to fuel the cultural tourism and hospitality dynamic. Vintage houses can be used for hospitality… bed & breakfasts and events venues.

    The idea of cultural tourism fell on deaf ears because the powers that be were focused on any kind of growth, good or bad in order to achieve their goal of “ratables’. This goal of ratables killed preservation.

    But there is no guarantee that changing Montclair’s landscape into ratables will lower taxes or boost economy. I believe that this concept is completely outdated and has reached its functional obsolescence, especially because the dynamic would call for rebuilding and increasing the infrastructure where there is no money to do so. It just cant happen. There is no economic benefit for the taxpayers…just more suffocation and burdens.

    If the planners and managers don’t begin to realize that their work is moving in the wrong direction (their proposed Master Plan is an unacceptable failure) and understand what real and sustainable smart growth for Montclair could actually be, then they need to go work elsewhere. The community is comming out more to express their oposition to what they are seeing and changes of our existing landscape.

    Yes, it is about smart economics. Our existing built environment is a valuable economic asset that could generate a rich economy of cultural turism and hospitality. Antique Markets… Farmers Markets…Concerts & Film festivals in notable historic building…. visits to the museum and historic houses…historic events venues… links to NYC cultural programs like the NY Armory Contempory Arts Weeks (i’ve been working on those shows as curator for several years but how do you draw that public to Montclair if they get here and see that all we do is fight against bad development, teardowns and the encroachment of strip mall architecture. Montclair’s economy could thrive if they would just let it be what it already is.

  15. POSTED BY willjames  |  August 13, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

    The most common meaning of the phrase “strip-mall architecture” is development that favors surface-parking in the front of low-rise buildings.

    “Strip mall architecture” pushes building facades away from pedestrian walkways, thus giving those walkways the eerie “nowhere in particular” feel that makes car-centric suburban development seem so soulless.

    In *this* sense, which is the much more common usage of the phrase than the idiosyncratic way you use it, FrankGG, “strip mall architecture” is peppered ALL OVER MONTCLAIR ALREADY, and is the reason I and other people here do some gentle eye-rolling whenever you tout Montclair’s “remarkable built environment.”

    There are many special buildings in Montclair, of course. But there are also a significant number of “strip-mall” style properties in our commercial districts that, simply because they’re one-story (or two-story) structures, get a free pass. I (sincerely) don’t get why these strip-mall structures were allowed to be built the way that they were built (in the 70s through the 90s), and I don’t understand why people who care about such things won’t concede that these lo-rise strip-malls around town do real damage to the town’s public sphere.

  16. POSTED BY martinschwartz  |  August 13, 2014 @ 12:30 pm

    Frank Rubacky – me thinks you are lost in the leaves again and still not seeing the big picture. Why not view the entire panorama, instead of always trying to play chapter and verse “gotcha”? At least that’s what it seems.

    Adam Grace and I met with then Councilors Ed Remsen and Don zief in 2002 or 2003 to try and convince them to historically designate the older Farrell building — then part of the DCH property. Similarly, we lobbied to include the entire site within the Downtown Historic Preservation District to help the township gain more control for future development since everyone knew the dealership would ultimately be sold. The Councilors wouldn’t do it.

    Why? Because they said the owners of the auto dealership (our biggest taxpayers at the time) were Asian. They didn’t want to have to appear before the HP Commission for design sign-offs on any future project developed. The pols said those owners had no experience working within the governmental process and were concerned by it (roll over ethnic/racial pandering by any other name or we were just being suckers). Shocked, nonetheless we warned them that any new development created would not have the level of oversight needed for such a large and important site (like the hotel project ultimately created). So yes, the ball was indeed first dropped right then.

    Sure, the Fried administration also could have included the property in the expanded preservation district down the road as well as including the Museum. However, with the Farrell building gone, it was a much weaker case.

    I disagree with you. For properties both covered by historic districts/individual designations, and covered under redevelopment plans, the township retains maximum “control” over the look and feel of these developments. That’s both from the planning board and hpc involvement in the overall site plan approval process.

    That you personally don’t know exactly what “that oversight even means” as you admitted, or how it would play out — should not be of concern. Many of us do. And a good example of this involvement was the input of the design sub-committee created for the hotel – comprised of 3 architects, myself and the PB chair. What it means is ensuring projects like the hotel adhere from the very start to the preservation goals of the master plan in scale, height and mass. It means adhering to, in the case of the hotel — Sections 2.3.3 and 5.5 et. al of the redevelopment plan – to ensure both the detailing and character of what’s built maintains Montclair’s architectural quality – per my long term economic argument above.

    With more oversight like this from the get go – the collaborative process could have started from the beginning – not rushed at the end or limited – to salvage a bad situation.

    Are we starting to move more in this ‘oversight’ direction today? Yes, with the addition of form based codes in the master plan hopefully. That design oversight technique actually could have actually been used ten years ago starting without calling it “form based codes. If our elected leaders knew what they were doing more, or were at least open to those who did for land use – we would have.

    For example: we could have at any point created a rule that said: “no more than ten percent vinyl siding can be used in any residential construction.” This could have been put into our building or zoning codes and that would clearly help neighborhood property values everywhere (while annoying some people most likely). Nonetheless, those are the kinds of decisions which could have been made.

    Today, the HPC is now working up such design standards for new construction coming in HP districts. The Environment Commission is also starting to address some of these issues for our streetscapes (sidewalks, lighting etc.), and the PB is starting to deal with what are really architectural and design standards through these “form based codes.” The purpose is the same. Protect our visual architectural and property assets.

    Remember, this is all a dance because unlike NY and other states – there is no architectural review board step required by the state of NJ. for development or construction oversight. If required, much of these efforts would not be needed.

  17. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 13, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

    Strip Mall Architecture not only for its morphology but mainly for its pastiche “press on nails” aestehetics…empty token gestures…that dont harmonize with Montclair…. like those nauseating outdated fad colored squigglies on the parking garage next to the hotel. They’ve got to go! I hope they’ll consider using the same oiled bronze or copper pannels like in the new hotel design.

  18. POSTED BY willjames  |  August 13, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

    Like I said: idiosyncratic usage.

    “A strip mall is an open-air shopping mall where the stores are arranged in a row, with a sidewalk in front. Strip malls are typically developed as a unit and have large parking lots in front. They face major traffic arterials and tend to be self-contained with few pedestrian connections to surrounding neighborhoods.”

  19. POSTED BY johnnyblade  |  August 13, 2014 @ 1:58 pm

    What a difference a few thousand complaints make! It looks much better than before. The front looks great! The sides look okay. It’s still somewhat ugly and generic looking. Needs another revision in my opinion. Orange Road side looks like a hospital. Where’s the ER entrance? The rear is better, but just okay. Overall I give it a 6 out of 10 when before it was a 3 out of 10. If the sides and rear were to look as good as the front it will be close to a 9 of 10!

    The sides are the largest and most visible which in my view makes it most important. Needs one or two more revisions. 6 out of 10 is not good enough. For a building this large it should be at least an 8. If larger windows helped the front, maybe larger windows (the ones that are smaller) on the sides could help?

    Can we get bigger pictures for the next revision?

    Will it be built it using quality materials and workmanship? Or will it all be cheap crap?

  20. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 13, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

    Great Council story Martin!
    Remind me, who was the Mayor back then?
    Isn’t Mr Zief on the MAM Board of Trustees?
    Didn’t we still have the Conversations On Race program?

    This is the problem trying to be an insider. You want to believe – and are almost compelled to believe – what people are sharing with you confidentially.

    The Farrell Building gone made for a lot weaker case? LMAO!!! This HPC, PB and Council designated the Watchung Historic District. You couldn’t find enough remaining historic fabric at the Plaza to make window awnings for Valley & Bloom.

    Big picture is to eliminate the HPC and fold responsibilities into the PB. You know as well as I do that the HPC has the least control on new development and the most control on renovations, by law.

    Has anyone asked outside counsel what they think of the PB’s little hotel subcommittee and the authority the PB has now given it? By all means, let do that stunt again soon.
    I know, down in the weeds.

  21. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  August 13, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

    willjames, I enjoy your posts, but I think I know what frankgg means when he skewers strip mall architecture, (and frankgg, correct me if I am mistaken). Rather than shaping and finishing a building properly ( an architect’s and builder’s obligation to the public when a building site is prominent ) , the team simply goes for a box with a serviceable facade pasted on the front, whether or not the cars park out front, or in the back or even down the street. This type of construction is a essentially architectural junk food, whether or not it enhances the landlord’s bottom line. The MC Hotel was hovering awfully close to junk food status for a long time, and the HPC moved it to a better place.

  22. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 13, 2014 @ 5:56 pm


    I’m feeling particularly combative today. Sorry.

    I reference your post, in part, about “Strip malls are typically developed as a unit and have large parking lots in front. They face major traffic arterials and tend to be self-contained with few pedestrian connections to surrounding neighborhoods.”

    Ironically, this is a typical description of a TOD area…as much as people who use the term Smart Growth hate to admit it.

  23. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 13, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

    Grazie caro Spiro…perfetto!
    I like your term Architectural Junk Food ….it’s another way of saying Strip Mall Fabulous…

  24. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 14, 2014 @ 9:18 am


    You can start with NJAS 40:55D-23. It goes downhill from there.

  25. POSTED BY willjames  |  August 14, 2014 @ 11:42 am

    Architectural Junk Food is a good coinage. Why not run with that from now on?

    Frank R,

    If the perimeter of a TOD, even if it has a somewhat inner-directed orientation (e.g., has a public space in its center, rather than on a border), offers a uniform setback and a rich assortment of ground-level services and shops, then it’s going to be more “connected” to the surrounding neighborhoods, and seem more like an inviting *place*, than typical surface-parking strip-malls.

    I consider this project in San Mateo, CA, where a Kmart, a Michaels (arts and crafts store) and a gas station are being replaced by a TOD development offering 599 residential units, 10,000 square feet of office facilities, and 60,000 square feet of retail to be a “typical” (albeit large-scale) example. Is your critique of TOD applicable in this case, too, or are you talking about some other sort of TOD that doesn’t look like this?

  26. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 14, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

    The fundamental purpose of TOD is to create neighborhoods….not to connect neighborhoods.

  27. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 14, 2014 @ 1:34 pm

    All of these concepts are misdirected and inappropriate for Montclair….we don’t need to create neighborhoods… We need to preserve them… They are the first prototypes and served as a begining of American Land Use Legislation. Montclair urgently needs a planner who is expert in preservation … Not TODs or Strip Malls!

  28. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  August 14, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

    I agree with both Frank’s. We already have neighborhoods complete with small and charming business districts in close proximity to train stations and bus stops. Why do we want to look like San Mateo or all those other overnight generic “neighborhoods” I see all over Southern California. There’s a nice big one in Harrison now. They all look the same and they all have the same chain stores as anchors. We don’t need to replace a K Mart and a Michaels with a mixed use large scale development next to transit because our business districts are already mixed use and already next to transit.

  29. POSTED BY willjames  |  August 14, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

    It’s always a pleasure being overruled by the Baristanet authorities on what Montclair wants and needs.

    Nonetheless, I’m not persuaded that the A&P plaza is anything other than a soul-sucking, pedestrian-unfriendly, suburban strip-mall. Or that the stretch of Valley north of there that has the CVS and the car-repair shop and a bunch of other miscellaneous crap-buildings across from each other is anything other than a depressing parade of mediocrity. Or that the huge area devoted to surface parking at Lackawanna Plaza is anything other than a criminal waste of valuable space. I could name at least half a dozen other “no-places” around town that totally suck the life out of the neighborhoods that they occupy, but what’s the point? You’ll just rise in support of the status quo, and I’ll be all alone here waving my freak flag.

  30. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  August 14, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

    willjames, I find the comparison between the A&P parking lot and the Kings parking lot worth considering. Kings (perhaps unintentionally ) utilizes the precepts of ‘new urbanism” and “pedestrian friendly” by being situated right at the sidewalk. The A&P is pulled way back. Since both buildings are ugly, I prefer the A&P solution because it is far enough away to be relatively inoffensive as compared to Kings, which is a truly unpleasant building to walk next to. The site plan at Whole Foods is probably better than either of those other two, probably because it is turned sideways in relation to Bloomfield Avenue. What do you think?

  31. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 14, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

    Spiro … That’s an interesting observation … I remember that when the Whole Foods building was Food Town and the main entrance was modernist tower element on the corner…. To address bot the Bloomfield Ave sidewalk, as well as the parking lot on the side.

  32. POSTED BY willjames  |  August 14, 2014 @ 3:00 pm


    It’s more or less a moot point, since the Lukoil on the corner more or less guarantees that no one will be randomly walking on the west sidewalk of Valley north of Lorraine.

    In general, a continuous setback that’s right on the sidewalk tends to give people a reassuring sense that they’re in a ‘place’ (even if some of the building-facades are craptastic). That’s why Brooklyn neighborhoods can cohere and seem vibrant even though individual blocks often have a good number of buildings that, when considered in isolation, are architectural abominations.

    This street-level comfort is in stark contrast to the feeling most pedestrians have when they’re walking along a sidewalk that’s sandwiched between traffic on one side of them and surface parking on the other. You don’t see as many people walking on the sidewalks in blocks that are built in that fashion. People may not express their preference explicitly or consciously, but repeated studies have confirmed that pedestrian traffic is much lower along such thoroughfares.

  33. POSTED BY sillyphus  |  August 14, 2014 @ 3:02 pm

    I think we should spread the rumor that Montclair has WMD and wait for the military to make drone strikes. The town will then be entitled to billions in reparation funds to rebuild. I’m sure there would be a consensus of how it would be rebuilt and everybody will live happily ever after.

  34. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 14, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

    Jerseygurl…. Thank you…I totally agree! After this whole hotel, Gateway and proposed Master Plan process, not only does it seem time to reorganize the Planning Dept but also the Planning Board. Although, I will always respect Chairman Wynn for his years of dedication and for being the only other no vote on the demolition of the Marlboro Inn (besides mine). He did state, however, that he was in favor of the hotels original design and was seemingly willing to move forward with the approval process without passing it though HPC review. That’s not acceptable because it was not respectfull of the interests of the community. Thanks to his tireless dedication, hard work and success in the Planning Board dynamics, (not to mention the huge improvements in the hotel project ) I would gladly see Martin Schwartz as the next chair of the Planning Board. Martin has been the driving force behind extremely correct and positive change. I’m relieved and grateful…( so are the many many other oldters and natives like me) and we need to continue in (AND with) the right direction.

  35. POSTED BY willjames  |  August 14, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

    Nonentities need not apply.

  36. POSTED BY willjames  |  August 14, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

    Act I:

    Frank GG: “Sweeping statement on behalf of most of Montclair!”

    Frank R: “Five points of clarification and elaboration.”

    JerseyGurl: “I agree!”

    Frank GG: “Thank you! I agree with your agreement!”

    Act II: repeat Act I

  37. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 14, 2014 @ 3:58 pm


  38. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 15, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    “…. I don’t understand why people who care about such things won’t concede that these lo-rise strip-malls around town do real damage to the town’s public sphere.”

    I don’t have to concede as I have always basically agreed with you on this point. The 0′ setback generally helps in downtown settings, but the justification is downgraded in the Neighborhood Commercial zones- especially with the portions of NC adjacent to R-1 & 2 zones.

    Elaborating further on the good concept/bad execution aspect, one can look at all the windows around Montclair Center (my favorites being Anthropology and CVS), to understand how an improperly executed 0′ setback concept also does “real damage to the town’s public sphere”.

    My primary issue is not keeping the status quo. My issue is that when you take away all the Smart Growth/new urbanism labels, it is all about a very dramatic increase in block density because we want/need more revenue.

    People residing/working/shopping. And we’re not talking about single or double digit % density increases. We’re talking about triple digit % increases in density.

    So, when you used the “peppered around town” descriptor, I keep thinking that the cap to the pepper shaker is about to come off in certain NC neighborhoods.

  39. POSTED BY martinschwartz  |  August 15, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    johnnyblade- your comments above are right on the money in my opinion and the expectation framework for viewing the final design results.

  40. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  August 16, 2014 @ 9:46 am


    Unless I misunderstood the motion to approve, all open design item approvals will be handled by the Design Subcommittee, not the full PB. If you want to see the changes, you will have to go to the Planning Dept offices once the subcommittee approves them.

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And we can get this project completed in time for Montclair's sesquicentennial when we can stick a fork into historic preservation as a public policy.

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