MontClairVoyant: Future ‘Arts District’ Is ‘The Art of the (Bad) Deal’

Thursday, Aug 17, 2017 1:15pm  |  COMMENTS (0)


Last week, you briefly criticized the Planning Board’s unanimous August 8 approval of plans for the way-too-big “arts district” on/near Seymour Street. Can you say more about that project and the PB’s post-midnight vote?

I.M. Disappointed

This whole column will focus on those topics, including the kind of arts and entertainment we might see when the project is finished. The developers have high buildings; I have low expectations.


The Seymour project will cram downtown Montclair — especially when combined with Valley & Bloom, the coming “MC” hotel, the coming Lackawanna Plaza enormity, and the August 14-approved revamp of the former Diva Lounge site — so is all this about developer greed?

A. Variciousness

The first play performed in that “arts district” should be “All My Sums.”


And “All My Sons” playwright Arthur Miller lived in “Art’s district.” Also, should any musician performing in the future Seymour complex do a cover of Rush’s “The Big Money”?

Eugene O’Neil-Peart

Too obvious. Perhaps a new song, like the simply titled “Gentrification Is Hurting Montclair and Fewer Non-Rich People Will Live Here and Developers Just Don’t Care But They’re Paying Me to Perform So I…um…Like Their Hair.”



Along with whatever arts and entertainment Seymour might offer, there will be horrible traffic, invasive new parking decks, and many pricey housing units (some sending kids to our already-crowded schools). Lose-lose-lose?

But No Developer Profits Lost

Don’t forget the planned plaza. It will be…plaza-like. It will…start with a “p.” It could be nicknamed…”All That Plazz.” It could be a gathering place…for members of the SSCC (Society for the Study of Cheap Cement).


Some Planning Board members say the many-variances-dispensing PB is significantly tougher on developers than before. What’s up with that nonsensical claim?

The Weak That Was

PBers are SO proud to now give developers 98% of what they want rather than 99% of what they want. Profiles in courage. Developers are quaking in their boots. Actually, they’re raking in the loots.


Yup, Seymour might look a bit better than something like Valley & Bloom, but it will overwhelm downtown and Montclair as a whole. And aren’t some Township Council members just as overdevelopment-friendly?

Construction Cheerleaders

Maybe their ultimate goal is to make Montclair so urban that the Township Council becomes the City Council. A name with more cachet, prestige, and status — words you might see on the websites of developers who cater to the affluent.


What about white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., Trump’s shamefully weak response to that, local congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen’s minimal/very belated response to that, and our community’s morally strong reaction — including August 13’s large Brookdale Park vigil organized by NJ 11th for Change?

Ray Cists-Tothecore

Hard to tie that to this week’s column theme, except to say that a gentrified Montclair is unfortunately a whiter Montclair and that, in the future, SSCC might also stand for Seymour Street’s Caucasian Concourse.



Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.




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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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