Blog: Say NO to Rooftop Addition on the Montclair Police Building

policeLinda Cranston is co-founder of the Save Upper Montclair Facebook group:

Say NO to Rooftop Addition on the Police Building Again! Residents have to ask officials and our town planner to do the right thing for our town.

The Gateway 2 Redevelopment Plan seeks to place a two story addition on the roof of the historically designated Police Station/1st Municipal Building, even though it is protected and a key building in our downtown historic district and therefore the exterior cannot be altered.

Even though, The Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Preservation Brief #14 States:


Baristanet Blog disclaimer

The Police Station was designed by Otto Francis Semsch in 1912 as the first purpose built Municipal Building in Montclair in the Beaux Arts Style. Mr. Semsch was a nationally recognized architect, engineer, contractor and an invested resident of Montclair, from 1914 – 1934. He developed the concept of cross-bracing for steel structure sky-scrapers, and was the engineer for the Singer Building in NYC. He worked closely with Ernest Flagg (noted American architect in the Beaux Arts Style) on numerous commissions.

Sat “NO ADDITION” at the Planning Board Reviw/Vote tonight, September 28 at 7:30 pm in the Municipal Building Conference Room at 205 Claremont Avenue.

Email a letter or comment to planning director for planning board:

and/ or the Redevelopment Subcommittee:

  • Mayor Jackson
  • Sean Spiller, 3rd Ward Counselor
  • Tim Stafford, Town Manager
  • Brian Scantlebury, Deputy Manager
  • Rich McMahon, Counselor at Large





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  2. A one story addition that’s slightly set back from the roof line would be practically invisible (unless you are viewing the building from above). You guys should really be advocating for a reduction, not forbidding any additions at all.

    A building can only be redeveloped if it pencils out for the developer. Would you rather have the police headquarter building sit vacant, or have it renovated with a penthouse? We cannot have our cake and eat it too

  3. Cranston is also citing a non-applicable historic preservation standard. “A SMALL, ONE, TWO, OR THREE-STORY BUILDING” refers to a house or duplex, not a large municipal building.

    This is misleading.

  4. Linda,

    I’m against the proposed additional floors because I don’t think the proposed mass is historically appropriate. The current issue before the Planning Board (PB) is whether to recommend the additional mass & stepbacks. That leaves the only the design specifics (material, style, color, etc.) the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) to advise on much later in the process. By that time, the ship will have sailed – once again. All of this is arguably compliant with our ordinances as written, but it demonstrates a low regard for preservation and our HPC.

    While I don’t agree, I appreciate the economic justification for the proposed addition. The fact that the HPC is legally precluded from evaluating any addition on economic grounds actually offers an opportunity for an objective, expert design review of the massing…something the PB can’t do.

    So, why is the PB ignoring its own, newly minted Master Plan:

    “In order to fully evaluate the impacts of large new development projects, the Historic Preservation Commission, Environmental Commission, Housing Commission and Capital Finance Committee should be involved early in the process of preparing redevelopment plans. “ – 2015 Montclair Master Plan

    Clearly, even members of the HPC disagree on this proposed addition. I don’t think informal, ad hoc input from a few HPC members rises to the review standard we should have for Montclair. The appropriate PB action would be to formally refer the massing question to the full HPC for a public hearing and a formal response in return…before the PB determines to recommend this plan or not.

    I also believe the HPC could do more unilaterally for both this redevelopment and potentially other additions on key historic buildings (e.g. the Wedgwood Building and the Hick Building). The HPC should address this issue specific to local conditions and architecture as they finalize their new Historic Design Standards that are still in draft form.

    PS: As you noted, key historic building exteriors can be altered. Saying they can’t is bad information.

  5. There is no compelling reason to have an addition to this building other than for the developer’s profit. In my opinion, added building volume to Montclair Center will only increase taxes because the infrastructure of roads and water are already maxed out. The township has no economic impact studies or traffic impact studies that would prove otherwise. They are not respecting the historic character of the downtown, they only talk around it but fail to do so, over and over. The “consultants” are paid by the developers. Why do we have to listen? There is nothing in this process that preserves the historic character of the downtown, as per township guidelines in the Master Plan. There is no attention to the obstruction “view shed” that gives the properties on the hill 9.5% more property value because of the view. Why continue to do re development if its only going to cost taxpayers more money and destroy the historic character of the town?

  6. “A building can only be redeveloped if it pencils out for the developer. Would you rather have the police headquarter building sit vacant, or have it renovated with a penthouse? We cannot have our cake and eat it too”

    Wow, this can not be the thinking we accept when it comes to historic preservation. We should not be trading preservation for development rights and building incentives.

    Also, this 12,000 SF addition is not going to make or break anything when we are adding three quarters of a million square feet to Montclair Center where we basically have the same developer involved.

  7. As usual, people freaking out about changes being made to anything in Montclair because HISTORIC.

    Or is it hysterical? I can’t tell.

    The EXTERIOR of the police building is under historic preservation – NOT the interior or even the full structure itself. Just the exterior.

    An additional one to two floors wouldn’t bother me at all – but I don’t quite understand how feasible that would be considering the dilapidated nature of the interior? Could it handle supporting another one to two floors?

    We can’t move into the future if we try to cling to every rivet and bolt and steel beam placed over a century ago.

  8. The “freaking out” isn’t over history… It’s about money. Taxes going up, local businesses becoming less attractive and property values going down because of Montclair’s continuing re development mistakes.

  9. montmike,

    It is certainly historic. It may be hysterical – but, your comments would be, too. At least I’m conveying facts. The only thing NOT covered by our historic ordinances is the interior. The proposal is covered. Furthermore, the air space over this building, and all other buildings in our locally designated historic districts, are also covered by historic review.

    As I have said before, historic preservation is becoming a quaint notion of public policy and I have long advocated disbanding the HPC and folding any HP responsibility we want to retain into the PB. We have designated maybe three dozen key contributing historic buildings out of the 15,000 properties in town. Almost all are in our commercial zones because we have a policy of not designating any in residential zones. We are using an economic justification to justify altering them. I don’t think you have to be overly concerned that HP will reverse its current trend. We, as a township, have already determined we will change the character of our commercial zones to drive ratables and protect residential character to drive cache. We are just in that in-between phase where our ordinances have not, as yet, been adjusted to reflect this.


    —as i visual this neighborhood, i can’t figure out what you mean. can you explain (in non-caps)?

    “property values going down because of Montclair’s continuing re development mistakes.”

    —gosh, I’ve missed those numbers that show this. can you share?

    “The Planning Dept and Planning Board should be adjusted to reflect Montclair.”

    —to reflect who?

  11. I’m all for Development in Montclair Center, heck I’m for even knocking down a bunch of buildings and putting up new ones, however adding two stories to the police station is nothing more than a money grab. The building is plenty big enough to succesfully develop into a good number of condos and there is meat on the bone there for a developer. Adding two stories is just a money grab and will not look good on that building.

    They want to leave a gas station on that corner but put two stories to a perfectly great historic building? Makes no sense.

  12. One of my favorite things about driving home from work up South Mountain Avenue is when I’d stop at the light on Bloomfield Ave, look right, and get this incredible, unubstructed beautiful view of the city’s skyline behind downtown Montclair.

    Then Plofker built an addition on top an old building on the corner of Bell and Bloomfield. Now I don’t see the skyline when I look right. It’s almost totally blocked out. Now I see Plofker’s addition.

    This pretty much sums up my feelings on most of Montclair’s recent development.

  13. If we want this building preserved with no addition, then this comes with the understanding of a lower sales price to a private developer.

  14. Yes, absolutely…but, it means more parking is available for Montclair Center visitors – and they spend more than residents. It also means less traffic if you follow the unique logic of traffic studies. It also eliminates subsidize housing costs in the profit equation to move the police department.

    On a related note, I don’t follow the plan’s graduated height logic of limiting the height to 2 stories for any new building directly across the street (with open space fronting it) while it advocates increasing the public safety building from 3 to 5 stories. The “rhythm” of building proposed heights would be 23′ to 0′ to 65′ to 74’…. and if we had our druthers if starting from scratch, we wouldn’t be advocating a 74′ height at all.

    There are always several ways to achieve a goal – in this case funding the police department relocation. Another way would be to relook at the 60,000 sf of dead space.

  15. I agree with Frank, an addition to the Montclair Police building would negatively impact character of the building. We already have the monstrosity being built across the street form the police station. Can we respect some of the character of Montclair please???

  16. There seems to be a “what the township wants” misunderstanding going on at 205 Claremont regarding Montclair re development. They seem to be working on old ideas and old strategies for addressing lowering taxes by creating new rateables, but times have changed and they can’t guarantee that the strategies will work. Its more likely now that the taxes would increase because of deficiencies of the present infrastructures of roads, water and schools.

    Residents are also beginning to react on the harm being done to aestetics and their “viewshed” (current re development still ignores adulterating peoples’ viewshed)

    “What the township community wants” is apparently NOT to go ahead with the current redevelopment proposals because the community is admonishing against its out of character nature.

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