A New Montclair Municipal Center: Who Wants It And Where Will it Be??

lackawanna plaza redevelopment

Last year, development partners Pinnacle and Hampshire Real Estate presented plans for the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment, which, in addition to a new supermarket, would include a new municipal building and police headquarters. Back in 2013, Montclair Mayor Jackson discussed his vision of having the Municipal Building and the Police HQ housed together (there was once even talk of adding the BOE to the mix).

The current location of the Montclair Municipal Building at 205 Claremont Avenue.
The current location of the Montclair Municipal Building at 205 Claremont Avenue.

Yet, in August, Pinnacle CEO Brian Stolar surprised the municipal Economic Development Committee when he presented a new set of plans with no municipal components, preserving the residential and commercial units included in the 2015 plan, reports The Montclair Times, which goes on to report what Township officials have to say about it and other possibilities for a new Municipal Building.

The PNC bank is located on teh corner of Park and Claremont, next to the Municipal Building at 205 Claremont Avenue.
The PNC bank is located on the corner of Park and Claremont, next to the Municipal Building at 205 Claremont Avenue.

One option mentioned would be for the township to consider moving into the PNC drive-through bank property west of the Municipal Building, thus expanding the tract of land to include both properties.

What do you think — does Montclair need a new municipal complex and police headquarters? If your answer is yes, where do you want to see these facilities located? And if you answered no — what does Montclair need and what would you prefer the council focus on?

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, Montclair needs a new municipal complex and police headquarters! Lackawanna Plaza would make a splendid location for both. I’d even allow for protesters who disagree!

  2. I’ll advocate for adaptive reuse and solve two problems. I’d fill the empty storefronts on Bloomfield Avenue with municipal offices.

  3. We may or may not need a new police station–I don’t know enough about the issue to say one way or the other–but we definitely do NOT need a new municipal building, or the increased taxes to pay for it. If you believe the Town Council when they tell us it will pay for itself with revenue from redeveloping and leasing the existing buildings, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

  4. 1) Just use the existing Police Headquarters and expand by replacing the Leach Building and others adjacent on Bloomfield Ave for a Municipal Building addition… police and public parking out back (as long as its not higher than a two story parking deck that can be covered by green.

    or

    2) The Deron School

    or

    3) Replace the Siena

  5. Yes, we need a new police building. While the PNC/205 Claremont site offers several advantages, we should plan for a shared public safety services agreement with 1 or more nearby towns. This would point to Bloomfield Ave or immediately off a side street.

    Township Hall is not a priority and there are several trends that seem to make planning for a new one right now a little dicey. Back burner.

  6. It’s legacy time. If the town can do it with no out-of-pocket costs, then so be it. The current council has done a fantastic job doing what no other council in recent history has been able to do. Finish a term with a smaller debt than they started with. Ignoring the unknown long-term costs of the massive development, I would expect the debt to actually begin to drop as a result of the PILOTS on these behemoth childrenless residences. I really hope they don’t blow all this common good on a wholly unnecessary municipal upgrade?

  7. “If the town can do it with no out-of-pocket costs, then so be it.”

    The complex will bring an annual $2MM debt service cost if we bond & build ourselves. Chump change compared to what the MPS will be spending in the coming years. The cash-less justification is a Trump-like financial fiction.

    Also, why would we want to lease our police headquarters? When was the last time you heard a suburb that meets the city doing that.

    No doubt we’ll see the Council bring in Mr Bernecke to spread the pixie dust. Can we get a real financial analysis from someone? Seriously, the Township can do better. A lot better.

    Build the police headquarters, but do it right.

  8. We want a more central and nicer newer municipal complex and police headquarters. If houses are upgraded from 1960s to current style, so should the municipal complex and police headquarters.

  9. Why not? In my town every dollar spent on property taxes goes to pay for services. In Montclair, what is it? One out of every seven or eight dollars goes to pay for debt service? That dollar could be the difference between twice a week garbage collection, smaller class sizes or having a library that doesn’t close every time the economic winds blow south. I wonder what a spiffy new police department will bring to the table for the law-abiding residents of town?

  10. Actually, a new, thoughtfully designed & located police headquarters can offer many community benefits that the current obsolete building can not. Benefits that align well with our economic and public safety priorities.

    I’ll readily concede the Mayor & Administration have not yet done a good job in explaining the what & why of it. Instead, the entire focus has been on he how it relates to economic development. This is a mistake. Now they have to play catch up.

    As far as leasing vs owning, that is a basic analysis yet to come. If truly a 4-wall analysis, I believe, considering the specialized use and needs, owning can be a better option financially. The biggest advantages to build-to-suit, triple net leasing is the developer can use non-union labor to build.

    Lastly, I assume you are comparing Mtc to Glen Ridge. Glen Ridge is a small, well-managed bedroom town that really prioritizes spending on schools (60% v 55% in Mtc). The avg Mtc homeowner’s total prop. taxes are $50/mo more. Mtc has equal or better services, more facilities, etc. Each town is different.

  11. I found my services to improve tremendously after moving from Montclair to Glen Ridge. Having lived in Montclair for most of my adult life versus only 5 years in the Glen Ridge, I will have to beg to differ on your opinion of services. Of course, it’s very possible that we value certain services differently. I’m not sure if you are interested in going toe-to-toe over each service, but it is of my opinion that size works against Montclair when it comes to delivering many services. Where I see the greatest difference is in refuse/recycling collection and general services one might need from a visit to 205 Claremont or 825 Bloomfield Avenue. You win on your library, but I am finding less and less reason to go to one in the digital age.

  12. I actually really like my refuse/recycling service. I might be the exception, maybe service is specific to the crews – don’t know. I do know the weekly service has improved greatly over the last 5 years under this Council. Yes, would like a more robust recycling program and greater on-demand, drop-off options, but I suspect that is dictated by the market.

    Size works against us both. For your Glen Ridge model, long-term, you need to expand shared services or privatize services. It is not an if, just a question of when. When you do, you will have to go with larger, more efficient entities. Mtc needs to offset it high overhead costs. E.g. it would seem a shared police service, a la carte or a package. So, yes, it comes down to the services each constituency values & prioritizes.

    But, Montclair has outgrown it’s current police building and our economic development plan is imposing new and larger demands on the department….and, yes, the digital age is also having a growing impact on public safety. In these regards, yes, spiffy is required.

  13. I will take you at your word on the refuse collection. I had it when they threw out my brand new $60 can with the garbage in it when the collector accidentally dropped the bin into the truck while his partner was compacting it. Then there were fines for dog poo bags in my recycling (like someone who would take the time to sort glass and paper would intentionally include dog poo in the collection). I was also the victim of Monday pickup which meant due to holidays, the pickup would often be every other week. Fine for most, but not when you live in a multi-family home. I have no fear of privatization. Not only do we have twice a week pick up, but they take it from the side of the house. No need to bring your cans to the street (or risk them getting thrown away). Plus, they work holidays.

  14. I am all for a new municipal center and police station in Montclair but I feel that the Lackawanna Plaza lot is Montclair’s most precious plot of undeveloped land and I would hate to see it underutilized, especially considering the townhouse development next door that severely underutilized another precious plot and created a very long block of dead space on Bloomfield Avenue in which the backs of townhouses back up to the avenue, where storefronts should be.

    Many commuters and other residents who walk from the heart of downtown to Bay Street station cut through the Lackawanna lot. In the winter, they often cut through the indoor section of the plaza to cross under Grove and out of Montclair’s very own pantheon, oculus and all.

    The empty lot should be laid out to create a town square in the middle that leads into the plaza through the dome. The hills on the side of the dome can be built out as a place for people to picnic. Shops and restaurants can line the Bloomfield Avenue side and continue into the square.

    The ultimate goal of development should be to connect the dots. The area around Bay Street station is filled with storefronts. Lackawanna Plaza and its empty lot have the ability to make a continuous stretch of “downtown” all the way from the art museum to Bay Street station.

    Dead zones make it impossible to create a great downtown experience. Montclair really blew up recently. People are moving here in droves. Great new businesses have been popping up these past few years and the streets are much more lively these days. The music scene has been growing here recently as well.

    I hope that the new development in town takes this into account. We have a fast direct train to Manhattan. The station is located within walking distance of downtown, yet it feels so far. It’s isolated. It makes you feel like you got off at the wrong stop. You don’t know which direction to walk to get to town. The infrastructure is already there. The area and the east side of Bloomfield Ave. have been growing organically as of late, and the Montclarion II seems to be nearing completion. How Lackawanna Plaza and its lot are developed will determine Montclair’s future. It’s the last big plot remaining.

  15. I love the vision presented by mistermayor for the Lackawanna Plaza lot with a town square, shops and restaurants extending downtown to the Bay Street train station. Since NJ Transit trains only go to the Bay Street station on weekends, I go there to pick up friends who come by train to visit on weekends. I agree that it feels isolated and far from downtown. In addition, I would like to see a small black box theater included of approximately 150 seats which would compliment the shops and restaurants. Although many were hoping to see this included in the Seymour Street Redevelopment project, it doesn’t appear as if that will happen. The 10,000 sq ft allocated for new arts space beyond the Wellmont Theater in that project may be used for other purposes such as a recording studio or other non-performing arts uses. While the Wellmont Theater brings to town large, nationally known groups and performers such as Chris Botti and Jay Leno, the Township has lost a place for smaller, intimate and local cultural experiences once provided by such professional groups as the Luna Theater which moved to West Orange. The space could be designed to be flexile to serve theater, dance, music, visual arts and more. This would enrich our town and contribute to the economy and liveliness in the evenings of this new town center.

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