MontClairVoyant: Lackawanna Plaza ‘Compromise’ Is Less Than Meets the Eyes

BY  |  Thursday, Sep 14, 2017 12:00pm  |  COMMENTS (114)


At Sept. 11th’s Planning Board meeting, members of the Township Council’s Economic Development Committee said they’ll recommend to the full TC that historic Lackawanna Plaza have 280 rather than 350 housing units. Good news?

Re the EDC

I guess — if being whacked with a rubber chicken 280 rather than 350 times is good news.


Why did the rubber chicken cross the road?

Without Feathers

To escape Montclair’s increasingly crammed downtown.


Seventy fewer units will help, and EDC members also agreed with several other revisions suggested by the Planning Board. But the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment would still be WAY TOO BIG, especially when combined with the other large buildings that have risen or are rising on/near Bloomfield Avenue.

Cascade of Colossal Construction

I’ve heard that “the sun also rises,” but with Valley & Bloom in the way it’s hard to tell. Is that yellow hue a celestial orb or our local leaders’ timidity with greedy developers?


Let’s look at the concept of compromise. Eliminating 70 units sounds impressive, but the Lackawanna Plaza developers were probably always thrilled with a 280 total and may have suggested 350 just to see if that would stick. Comment?

Cagey and Enrage-y

An LP developer sitting near me at the Sept. 11 meeting certainly didn’t look unhappy when the 280 number came up. Maybe he’s just pleased Taylor Swift has a new album.


Given that the vast majority of Montclairites are appalled by all this overbuilding, why the relatively small turnout at the meeting?

Birth of an Explanation

I think residents are disheartened that every time they oppose overbuilding our town’s leaders still give developers almost everything they want. So the question becomes: Does a person speak at a meeting and get ignored AGAIN, or does a person do something with more impact — like watch paint dry that has already dried.


In your column, you’ve railed against overdevelopment for years yet have had as much impact as a gnat boxing against Muhammad Ali in his prime. What do you say to THAT?

Pay Per View Sue

Boxing gloves small enough to fit a gnat? Cool!


Despite Township Council and Planning Board members acting all buddy-buddy Sept 11, we can’t forget that the TC took away much of the PB’s power to decide on Lackawanna Plaza. Was that right?

U. Surped

The TC did allow the PB to continue holding its meetings in the Council Chambers rather than the Municipal Building elevator. Magnanimous!


But isn’t it a shame that the overdevelopment-friendly TC reduced the PB’s Lackawanna-deciding power for one of the few projects the also-overdevelopment-friendly PB has shown some skepticism about?

Got the Grove Street Blues

Irony isn’t dead, though an “appropriately scaled” downtown is.



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.





  1. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 14, 2017 @ 1:56 pm


    Yes, the rubber chicken crossed Glenridge Avenue on way to Montclair Book Center to purchase a copy of Woody Allen’s sidesplitting collection of short stories.

  2. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 14, 2017 @ 2:12 pm

    Ha! Thank you, silverleaf! I can totally picture the scenario you skillfully conjured up. And perhaps the nearby Wellmont Theater can be renamed Annie Hall… ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. POSTED BY stayhyphy  |  September 14, 2017 @ 3:44 pm

    “Given that the vast majority of Montclairites are appalled by all this overbuilding, why the relatively small turnout at the meeting?”


    Because…..wait for it….THE VAST MAJORITY SUPPORT THE NEW DEVELOPMENT. Ger over it bro.

  4. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 14, 2017 @ 3:57 pm

    Dave, what a coincidence! Many years ago I met Marshall McLuhan in the lobby of the Wellmont.

  5. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 14, 2017 @ 4:09 pm

    I appreciate the comment, stayhyphy. Well said!

    It’s impossible to know what every Montclair resident thinks about all the downtown development (I haven’t quite gotten the Deanna Troi/Empath/”Star Trek: The Next Generation” thing down yet ๐Ÿ™‚ ). But I find it hard to imagine that the vast majority of Montclairites are in favor of bulky buildings, expensive apartments, mediocre design, added traffic, more kids in already-crowded schools, etc.

    Maybe all the new development is welcome for some people who are not currently Montclairites but want to move into town?

  6. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 14, 2017 @ 4:16 pm

    That IS a coincidence, silverleaf! I well remember that classic/hilarious “Annie Hall” scene with Marshall McLuhan. Did you just see or say hello to McLuhan, or did you speak with him? If the latter, how did the conversation go?

    Back when the Wellmont was a movie theater, of course…

  7. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 14, 2017 @ 4:36 pm

    Just kidding, Dave. Couldn’t resist the temptation to add that petit mensonge to our back-and-forth. I did see “Annie Hall” at the Claremont, however.

  8. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 14, 2017 @ 4:37 pm


  9. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 14, 2017 @ 4:51 pm

    Oops — I missed your joke, silverleaf. Sorry about that. What would McLuhan have been doing in Montclair anyway? Although downtown Montclair is starting to look a little more like…”Manhattan.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. POSTED BY wazpie  |  September 15, 2017 @ 5:12 am


  11. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 15, 2017 @ 6:47 am

    Thank you, wazpie!

  12. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  September 15, 2017 @ 3:29 pm

    Pardon me Dave, is this the Lackawanna Litany?
    Rubber stamp 29, gives the builder some time.

  13. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 15, 2017 @ 3:44 pm

    “The Lackawanna Litany”! I love the way that sounds, Spiro! Could’ve been the name of a train that chugged in and out of that former historic station, now threatened with overdevelopment almost beyond recognition.

    And, yes, it seems developer proposals pretty much get rubber-stamped, with some changes but not enough changes. I wonder if there’s a municipal budget line for purchasing all those rubber stamps…

  14. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 15, 2017 @ 4:28 pm


    The Council has addressed the historic preservation, open space, and # of dwelling units. The reduced housing is, per acre, less than Seymour and V&B. Redressing traffic is a non-starter, although I try to mitigate. So, that leaves a 85,000+ SF supermarket complex which is not open to discussion by either residents or Township. The residents want a supermarket, but not next to them. Anything over 10% affordable housing is not going to happen – primarily because how much affordable housing can we cram into a ยผ mile radius? So, the sole open issue is design…and considering the wood/aluminum construction of 4 story buildings, I think we know what it generally will look like. So, as stayhypy said, it is done now, there is no real opposition ground to take and the remaining stuff is just that, stuff.

  15. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 15, 2017 @ 4:47 pm

    Thanks, Frank, for your knowledgeable comment. I realize the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment is basically a done deal, with some of the particulars to be worked out.

    I do think most residents of that neighborhood are okay with a supermarket near them, as they were okay with the Pathmark. What many are undoubtedly bothered about are all the housing units (280?) that would arrive with that future supermarket. And perhaps some residents don’t want a supermarket quite as huge as has been discussed.

    As for knowing what the design will look like, yes, it will be mediocre at best — which would be an interesting name for a rock band…

  16. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 15, 2017 @ 6:29 pm

    Gateway 1 has 400 apartments & hotel rooms on 3 ยผ acres. No one said boo. We wanted the hotel.
    Seymour has 200 apartments on 3 โ…” acres. A few said boo. We wanted an A&E plaza.
    Now Lackawanna now has only 280 apartments on almost 8 acres. Less than half the density.

    The “many” you cite (4-6 dz) aside from the Cloverhill Gang are missing the point. It is not whether it is 250 or 280 or 300 housing units. Its the 85,000+ SF supermarket that is the overwhelming impact on their quality of life concern. It dwarfs the housing impact. Further reductions in # of housing units will be measurably insignificant.

    Personally, I think “the many” are using the housing issue to rationalize their support of a big box retailer in the neighborhood. This is the same neighborhood that supported a 15,000 sf limit on retail stores along Glenridge Ave, but now supports a box 5 times bigger. It will be too late, but it will interesting when it comes to site plan reviews and the actual parking and traffic numbers.

  17. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 15, 2017 @ 7:34 pm

    Thanks, Frank, for that information and perspective!

    I think the opposition to all the development you referenced is wider and deeper than what you’re saying, but people feel township officials don’t listen to them as much as township officials listen to developers. So, many people are discouraged and don’t speak up.

    And I think most people would be happy with a much smaller supermarket. The Lackawanna Plaza developers and supermarket execs might feel differently…

  18. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 15, 2017 @ 8:28 pm

    Well, then Tuesday’s Council meeting is a pivotal meeting to influence the Plan rewrite. The point where the revised draft plan is published is when the fat lady has sung.

  19. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 15, 2017 @ 10:12 pm

    Yes, Frank, it seems it’s almost all about the Township Council when it comes to Lackawanna Plaza — possibly revising the plans somewhat and then approving them. The TC is so “for” the project that I don’t think even a turnout as large as the sanctuary-city-issue one of this past February would make a difference. ๐Ÿ™

  20. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 16, 2017 @ 8:44 am

    You are right and describing this meeting as pivotal was just boldface hyperbole. Now, we can move on to the pickle ball debate.

  21. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 16, 2017 @ 9:47 am

    Thanks, Frank! And…LOL…pickleball! I know it’s a legitimate sport, but it might need a name change — as did CentroVerde when it became Valley & Bloom and Hempstead at Montclair when it became Christopher Court. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 16, 2017 @ 9:48 am

    Meant to say “And…LOL…your pickleball quip!

  23. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 16, 2017 @ 10:48 am

    Speaking of Hempstead at Montclair, Frank, I was sad the name was changed to Christopher Court on the site of the much-missed/unfortunately razed Marlboro Inn. In the early days of this column, I enjoyed using Hempstead at Montclair’s HAM initials to call future residents of those McMansions HAMsters or HAMburghers. ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 16, 2017 @ 11:05 am

    I was one of those who didn’t think the Marlboro Inn was historic. The owners, like the Lewis family house had an opportunity to see-designate it and chose not to. In the case of the Marlboro, the neighborhood didn’t want the Inn. They complained constantly about it.

    Don’t blame the developers – it is our sub-division code and our reviewing bodies. Due up soon is Christopher St.

  25. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 16, 2017 @ 11:54 am

    I realize The Marlboro Inn wasn’t in optimum shape and wasn’t technically historic, but it did have its charms, part of it dated back to the 1840s, and it had a large/beautiful front lawn that was nice to see in that built-up section of Montclair. I lived two blocks from the Inn when it was demolished, and I assure you the majority of the neighborhood wanted to keep the Inn rather than see 10 huge houses crammed into that space.

    A shame the Inn wasn’t turned into a museum, or a community center, or something like that.

    And you’re right — township officials were mostly to blame (for approving the Inn’s destruction and green-lighting Christopher Court). Developers are almost always going to try to overbuild as much as they can. It’s in their DNA. Profits, profits, profits…

    The Inn/Christopher Court controversy was of course a dozen years ago, but in some ways what happened with that property set the template for overdevelopment to come.

  26. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 16, 2017 @ 2:15 pm

    Yeah, the Georgian Inn also had a nice little corner lawn that was just turned into a parking lot. Apparently all the planners & preservationists in town were ok with that, so I just have to laugh every time Crisco comes up as a “history lost” issue.

  27. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 16, 2017 @ 3:07 pm

    Georgian Inn and Marlboro Inn sites…hmm…same developer. He didn’t/doesn’t seem to favor lots of greenery in those projects. I guess it’s hard for developers to monetize blades of grass.

    I haven’t followed the Georgian Inn situation closely. Little or no opposition to the parking lot? If that’s the case, a real shame.

  28. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 16, 2017 @ 5:21 pm

    That’s why the HP success at Lackawanna Plaza is such an anomaly. It is extremely rare we preserve the land around the historic structure. Typically, if we protect the structures, it is at the expense of conceding the land surrounding them. Kudos to the MHPC.

  29. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  September 16, 2017 @ 5:26 pm

    Dave, I do see the Lackawanna site as underdeveloped, and I welcome the increased density. Unfortunate, then, that the apartment block architects in this proposal have been caught resuscitating limp design ideas that were rightfully filed in their basement office vaults some time around 1985. …. Or is 80’s revival the new hot ticket in the Drumpf era? …OK, fine, where’s my red silk power tie and three piece suit? I think even that clothing drop box for the needy on Amsterdam Avenue incinerated them by now.

  30. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 16, 2017 @ 5:49 pm

    Frank, I guess there are some potential positives in the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment — especially if the full Township Council goes along with some of the Planning Board’s 19 recommendations for improving the plan (keeping more historic elements, etc.). But the LP density, even with the number of housing units decreased from 350 to 280, seems daunting — especially combined with all the other new downtown construction. Maybe there have been denser Montclair projects than LP, but it’s still dense!

  31. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 16, 2017 @ 5:58 pm

    Thanks, Spiro! The Lackawanna Plaza site IS underdeveloped at the moment, especially with the closing of Pathmark and various other stores there. But I think the current plan swings too far in the other (overbuilding) direction. Many developers seemingly don’t do the happy medium thing.

    And, yes, as you seriously/very funnily wrote, the design seems so stale and mediocre. Maybe the LP co-developers find it cheaper that way. The only thing inspiring about the design is the way it inspires people to yawn and roll their eyes.

  32. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 16, 2017 @ 7:58 pm


    The Council wants to get us to 44,000 residents in the worst way. They have said since 2012 that it won’t impact the schools and we had already attained that level – so we can return to it (and their favorite decade, the 70’s).

    Where else do you want us to infill that population increase? I applaud the 3rd Ward for doing most of the heavy lifting towards this objective. The 4th Ward has said over the last 6 years, ad nauseam, it was ready to do its part. Bully for them! Don’t rain on their parade.

  33. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 16, 2017 @ 8:55 pm

    Thanks, Frank! I’m guessing your comment is partly serious and partly tongue-in-cheek? (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

    Yes, Montclair did formerly have more population than it has now. But that was a time of bigger families, so the town didn’t need as many housing units as it would now to go over 40,000 again.

    And, as everyone knows, a higher population WILL impact our schools. All this new housing means at least some new students — despite the not-entirely-believable claims that new tenants will mostly be single, couples with no kids, empty-nesters, and retirees.

    In addition, it’s unfair for virtually all the new housing to be in the already-built-up 3rd or 4th wards. I realize the 1st and 2nd wards are also built up in their ways, so the solution for me is much less new housing ANYWHERE in Montclair.

  34. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 17, 2017 @ 9:45 am

    OK, I’m correcting you.

  35. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 17, 2017 @ 10:19 am

    Thank you, Frank!

  36. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 19, 2017 @ 2:21 pm

    Oops โ€” I missed your joke, silverleaf. Sorry about that. What would McLuhan have been doing in Montclair anyway? Although downtown Montclair is starting to look a little more likeโ€ฆโ€Manhattan.โ€

    Dave . . . waiting in line to buy tickets for “The Sorrow and the Pity”, what else?

  37. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 19, 2017 @ 4:47 pm

    LOL, silverleaf! Definitely waiting in line for that film. ๐Ÿ™‚ Then perhaps a scenic visit to the (now-defunct) Social Security building…

  38. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 20, 2017 @ 11:57 am

    In that case, “Take the Money and Run.”

  39. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 20, 2017 @ 2:41 pm

    Ha ha! Well played, silverleaf! Followed by a side trip to Bloomfield to see “Broad Street Danny Rose”?

  40. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 20, 2017 @ 4:32 pm

    Touche, Dave. A trip to the tennis courts across from Mountainside Park for “Match Point” would be nice.

    Your serve.

  41. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 20, 2017 @ 4:55 pm

    Excellent, including those final two words!

    Depending on the direction one is looking from, those tennis courts might be at “The Front” of Mountainside Park.

  42. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 20, 2017 @ 5:27 pm

    Yes, but only as actor, not director. On the other hand, I did hear that Woody has been taking his pet feline to the Montclair Animal Hospital on Watchung Ave. across from Bluestone Coffee Co. for a viewing of “What’s New Pussycat.”

  43. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 20, 2017 @ 5:34 pm

    Ha! After which he went to Applegate for a “Scoop”…

  44. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 21, 2017 @ 10:00 am

    The flavor, “Bananas” no doubt.

  45. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 21, 2017 @ 10:06 am

    Sounds more appetizing than “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” cone!

  46. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 21, 2017 @ 10:16 am

    Indeed it does. “Anything Else” but that flavor.

  47. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 21, 2017 @ 12:25 pm

    I wonder if “Hannah and Her Sisters” prefer Holsten’s?

  48. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 21, 2017 @ 12:45 pm

    Not sure about that. Tony Soprano did.

    Have you seen Woody’s 1978 film “Interiors”? The title reminds me of an over the top expensive home design store on Church Street.

  49. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 21, 2017 @ 1:22 pm

    That last episode of “The Sopranos” shot in Holsten’s!

    I saw “Interiors” many years ago. And there certainly ARE some pricey/”upscale” stores in Montclair — with more coming as downtown gets overbuilt and gentrified.

    Oh, and I posted this comment in “September.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 21, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

    A conversation between Tony and Paulie “Maple” Walnuts over a scoop of spumoni at Holstein’s . . . .

    Tony – “Do you think the Feds will pinch us on a “Crimes and Misdemeanors” rap?”

    Paulie – “I hope so and not a felony charge.”

  51. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 21, 2017 @ 2:07 pm

    Ha! I enjoyed that conversation! “Paulie ‘Maple’ Walnuts” — hee-hee. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And Holsten’s decor is…woody.

  52. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 21, 2017 @ 2:43 pm

    Exactly! No “Small Time Crooks”, those two!

  53. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 21, 2017 @ 2:57 pm

    Nope, they’re “Big”! Oops, that’s a Tom Hanks film…

    I forget the names of those crooks’ wives — “Melinda and Melinda”?

  54. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 21, 2017 @ 3:06 pm

    No, one of them was named “Alice.”

  55. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 21, 2017 @ 3:15 pm

    Well, “Alice” IS “Another Woman.”

  56. POSTED BY latebloomer  |  September 21, 2017 @ 3:24 pm

    Hi, Melinda here! You guys have great banter, you could start another column!

  57. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 21, 2017 @ 3:37 pm

    I hear she went through a difficult divorce, unfortunately, and is just now “Picking Up the Pieces.”

  58. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 21, 2017 @ 4:08 pm

    Thank you, latebloomer! silverleaf has been great to banter with!

    Given that overbuilding is making downtown Montclair increasingly congested, some local shoppers might gravitate to Wayne and see more “Scenes from a Mall.”

  59. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 21, 2017 @ 4:11 pm

    Dave, in post above, latebloomer identifies herself as “Melinda.” You don’t think she’s one of “The Imposters”, do you?

  60. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 21, 2017 @ 4:14 pm

    silverleaf, if it’s affordable, more than one “Midnight in Paris” could help any person’s divorce trauma…

  61. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 21, 2017 @ 4:18 pm

    silverleaf, is “The Imposters” shorthand for “Instant Messaging Posters”? ๐Ÿ™‚

  62. POSTED BY frankgg  |  September 22, 2017 @ 9:20 am

    Frank if you don’t think the building historic (It actually meets all five criteria requirements of historic designation) then consider a large open green space filled with heirloom plantings with a long sweeping lawn in the middle of a residential neighbor…. historic. And now that we don’t have that anymore… its really historic. Does Montclair designate landmarks by demolishing them for overdevelopment? OK now I get it.

  63. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 22, 2017 @ 10:32 am

    frankgg, I know what you (skillfully) said is addressed to Frank R., but thanks for commenting. Nice to see you back here!

  64. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 22, 2017 @ 10:41 am

    Hey frankgg!

    I think you are arguing with a misunderstanding of local historic rules, vis a vis vegetation. Vegetation is not part our HP ordinance. FYI, landscaping is the Zoning or Planning Boards’s jurisdiction.

    If no building, then no landmark. Those are the rules.

    What I don’t understand about your advocating the lawn, is why you supported the Georgian Inn parking lot replacing the open lawn?

  65. POSTED BY frankgg  |  September 22, 2017 @ 12:48 pm

    Well then, those regulations are all wrong for Montclair…wrong, like most other components of the re development and planning mechanism that’s going on these days. Montclairs nature and it’s green spaces are more valuable then the built fabric (although the built fabric is remarkably valuable for a suburban town) Montclair can be considered and important work of architecture and landmark event without its buildings…. like a becon seen on the horizon from NY. Montclair’s mountainside nature is what inspired the Hudson River Valley School painters to settle here and to paint the surroundings. George Inness’s paintings had so inspired Fredrick Law Olmsted, perhaps the most important American visionary planner, that Olmsted’s design for Central Park was the gesture of placing a wild natural Inness landscape painting smack in the middle of the new developing city. It’s a genius idea, important American history, and the natural Montclair landscape is the most important factor in this equation.

  66. POSTED BY frankgg  |  September 22, 2017 @ 12:49 pm

    ….. even without its buildings….. dang!

  67. POSTED BY flipside  |  September 22, 2017 @ 4:23 pm

    Frankgg….hate break it to you but it’s not the 1880’s anymore….

  68. POSTED BY latebloomer  |  September 22, 2017 @ 5:42 pm

    Silverleaf, Dave can vouch for me!

  69. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 22, 2017 @ 5:53 pm

    latebloomer, I can absolutely vouch for you with silverleaf! You are a wise, admirable person who is really named Melinda.

  70. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 23, 2017 @ 4:22 pm


    At the risk of aggravating you (and jcunningham), I suggest to keep a sharp eye out for the Western Expansion of the Montclair Center Historic District (TCHD) initiative. It will be an intiative that will likely send you to a Bayer Aspirin bottle. Why? It will exclude Views & Vistas…and focus on bricks & mortar.

    I know you have a multitude of personal connections to this 4 block area. Especially MKA. I hope you will support designating all of MKA to be within the district.

  71. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 23, 2017 @ 8:27 pm

    “It will exclude Views & Vistasโ€ฆand focus on bricks & mortar” — Frank, that does sound like the mission statement of certain developers.

    Though of course The MC hotel will provide good views for people using the rooftop bar, at the expense of many neighborhood residents whose views will be blocked by that tall hostelry.

  72. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 23, 2017 @ 9:14 pm

    It is not often one gets a 2nd bite at the apple, but Wayne McCabe’s 2009 Report offers proffers such opportunity for me. In a $ nutshell, the Town Center Westward Expansion proposal makes absolutely no preservationalist sense.

    Yes, you can throw a few lots like Whole Foods and the apartment building housing the fashionistas into the Town Center Historic District (HD). Go ahead. Who cares? But, to even contemplate, for one fraction of a second, including a redevelopment lot from the infamous Valley & Bloom project should insult any resident with a modicum of IQ. Basically, you would have to be a moron.

    What would make slightly better sense is to just ignore the Montclair Art Museum. Forget them. That is a useless board. Never could make inroads to a fiscal equilibrium.

    Assuming I’m a lone voice here, it would make more sense to extend the 1st Residential HD over to Bloomfield Ave.

    Or, we could just ignore the Periods of Significance and fabricate new ones. That’s always fun.

    Historic preservation malpractice, but, hey, we self-regulate.

  73. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 23, 2017 @ 9:18 pm

    And there reason we can’t extend the First Residential Historic District over top Bloomfield Ave is because that historic district only exists at the State level. At the Montclair level, it doesn’t’t exist.

    This is a waste of a lot of money. A terrible waste.

  74. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 23, 2017 @ 9:29 pm

    While Frankgg’s point is stated poorly, it is simple….

    How can Montclair have historic preservation involving First Mountain and specifically exclude views and vistas. No one has ever accused me of being a rocket science or even expert in preservation, but this is seriously fakakta.

  75. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 23, 2017 @ 10:50 pm

    Thanks for the thoughts and info, Frank!

    (I think “fashionistas” is a great synonym for “gentrifiers” — with the latter term applying not only to certain residents but also to certain developers.)

  76. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  September 24, 2017 @ 5:35 am

    I agree, flipside, is it not the 1880’s anymore. And I am glad for that because I am on antibiotics right now. But I will come to FrankGG’s defense here. While George Inness and his peers were inspired to spend time painting the Montclair landscape, as FrankGG correctly indicates, I don’t expect too many current artists lining up their easels across the street from either Valley/Bloom or Lackawanna Plaza any time soon. Cows are photogenic. Cash cows, not so much.

  77. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 24, 2017 @ 6:47 am

    Brilliantly written comment, Spiro.

    And if a 21st-century artist did paint Valley & Bloom or the future Lackawanna Plaza, the picture could be a simple “$”…

  78. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  September 24, 2017 @ 9:24 am

    thx Dave

  79. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 24, 2017 @ 9:47 am

    You’re welcome, Spiro!

  80. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 24, 2017 @ 8:20 pm


    Careful how you profile your developers. They come in for-profit and non-profit forms.

    Montclair-Kimberly Academy has 3 ยผ prime, undeveloped acres with amazing views & vistas just off Bloomfield Ave, above Walden Place. 7 North Mountain just got a nice up-zoning boost from the Planning Board. 4 stories in 4 (yrs).

    The Township is growing up. Time to cash in. There is (wistfully) no place for views & vistas.

  81. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 24, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

    Well, I used the term “certain developers.” But your point is well-taken, Frank — there are developers who are more community-minded, and willing to make some profit rather than excessive profit. Montclair’s “Big Three” developers do not seem to be in that group. Sure, they’ll give some money to charity here and there, but their modus operandi is maximizing profits.

    As for MKA, it unfortunately knocked down a really nice 1898 house in 2013. Not a preservationist mentality. ๐Ÿ™

  82. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 24, 2017 @ 8:37 pm
  83. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 24, 2017 @ 9:20 pm

    Yes, a mixed bag of developers. But, when it comes to the 3rd Warders, there has never been a development they didn’t support. It is just the way they are wired.

  84. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 24, 2017 @ 9:43 pm

    My sense from talking to 3rd Warders in person and reading their comments online is that many are not fond of development cramming their neighborhood. Hard to know exactly how many in that ward are for or against, but I’m guessing a LOT don’t like what developers are doing downtown.

  85. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 24, 2017 @ 10:46 pm

    My sense is that Tuesday’s meeting won’t reflect it. Let’s see.

  86. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 24, 2017 @ 10:53 pm

    You may be right, Frank. As I’ve mentioned before, many residents who oppose overdevelopment feel they haven’t been listened to and that it’s basically futile to continue attending meetings about Lackawanna Plaza, the “arts district,” etc.

  87. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 25, 2017 @ 8:47 am

    Futile? They should try and live in the 11th CD.

  88. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 25, 2017 @ 9:52 am

    Certainly frustrating to live in the 11th Congressional District (as I do) rather than the 10th CD, given how the Trump-supporting/Paul Ryan-supporting Rodney Frelinghuysen now votes far to the right of even many of his Republican constituents despite sometimes talking like the GOP “moderate” he once was. I hate that Montclair was gerrymandered into Rodney’s district.

    An excellent comparison of sorts, Frank — Rodney ignores the views of most of his constituents, while Montclair developers ignore the wishes of many residents.

  89. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 25, 2017 @ 10:10 am

    “And if a 21st-century artist did paint Valley & Bloom or the future Lackawanna Plaza, the picture could be a simple โ€œ$โ€โ€ฆ ”

    Dave, compliments of Any Warhol . . . .

  90. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 25, 2017 @ 10:42 am

    Wow, silverleaf! Thanks! I had no idea that painting existed!

    I was also thinking that any painter who painted in Montclair’s getting-more-crowded downtown would — in struggling to avoid traffic and packed sidewalks — become a “struggling artist.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  91. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 25, 2017 @ 3:40 pm

    Well, the 3rd Warders have a golden speaking opportunity with the Township contemplating the Westward expansion of the Town Center Historic District (TCHD). I personally think it is a mistake in concept and execution. What 3rd Warders should advocate for is the local designation & extension of the First Residential District from St. Lukes Pl up to Parkhurst.

    Just on a historic standards basis, the State’s 1992 report did not support the area above Valley Rd as part of the TCHD. The 2 lots adjacent to the Police Dept are not part of the TCHD and are intrusions slated for redevelopment. There are 11 properties West & East of Valley & Bloom (2 gas stations, DeCozen, etc.) are intrusions and, along with actually create a Lynchian Edge supporting non-inclusion. Nor can create a proper historic buffer because of 1.) Valley & Bloom and 2.) the historic lack of commercial center activities to support the lots on the other side of St Lukes Pl.

    So, designate Whole Foods as a stand-alone for its historic moderne style & different period of significance. Leave the MAM as it has long argued as an island from oversight. Argue the merits of the First Residential District as the primary mechanism for protection from overdevelopment, but this approach is flawed.

  92. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 25, 2017 @ 4:36 pm

    Thanks, Frank, for the thoughts and information about the westward expansion of the historic district — something I need to learn more about.

    Whole Foods does have a rather interesting building, one which of course dates back many years before the building became a Fresh Fields and then a Whole Foods. (I remember seeing an old photo of a Food Fair on Bloomfield Avenue — I wonder if it was in that building?)

  93. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 25, 2017 @ 4:50 pm

    Yes! Built in 1940.

  94. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 25, 2017 @ 6:27 pm

    Thanks, Frank! You know a LOT about Montclair!

  95. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 26, 2017 @ 11:03 am

    Correct, Dave. Whole Food acquired Fresh Fields in 1996. Before that it was a retail merchandise warehouse, “Sutton Place.”

  96. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 26, 2017 @ 11:22 am

    Thanks, silverleaf! You’re another Montclair history expert!

    I’m not remembering that Sutton Place retailer — must have closed not long before or not long after I moved to Montclair in 1993. Interesting that it was named (I assume) after an affluent Manhattan street.

  97. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 26, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

    Good call silverleaf. Food Fair closed and created the original food desert in Montclair. Sutton Place was a catalog showroom retailer. As I recall, it was a S&H Green Stamp redemption retailer initially, but don’t recall if it opened as Sutton Place or Sutton Place replaced it.

  98. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 26, 2017 @ 12:10 pm


    Iโ€™ll take that as a compliment.

    I might have mentioned that Montclairโ€™s historic preservation public policy is facing challenges. The market pressures of development are accelerating. As a public tool, we have statutorily addressed the low-hanging fruit of slowly adding protection to our qualifying commercial areas. The remaining designation opportunities are institutional, open space and – the big one – residential districts. Since the 1995 community blow-up, these designation categories remain the 3rd rail here in Montclair.

    Every single historic district designation was met with considerable dissent by property owners & stakeholders. The dissenter lists are a veritable whoโ€™s who of Montclair. Until this day, the dissent still manifests itself with a lack of compliance/enforcement. I hope most will say our historic districts have proven their worth and maybe it is time to open our minds to supporting the public policy. I am extremely pessimistic, but if the Township is going to task people & money for new initiatives, letโ€™s at least address the worthwhile endeavors. Not the tactical, mop-up one-offs.

    The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) should be the lead working group, but it needs the Mayor & the Council to provide the leadership & weight – just like they provided for our redevelopment projects (e.g. the Seymour Arts District).

    This TCHD Westward expansion initiative will be a time, labor & political capital drain for a extremely small & narrow gain. While Whole Foods is the one property at development risk that needs a historic designation, the Gateway 1 & 2 Redevelopment Areas are already subject to HPC review. Maple Plaza is municipally owned.

    I see the Westward Bloomfield Ave expansion as a residential zone issue. The 3rd Ward. As I have said, the MAMโ€™s lack of support for its own designation is a symbolic, community ‘lead-by-example’ deficiency. I am not terribly worried they will do any more major damage to their property. As long as they block designation, residential districts are a non-starter. Further, the Township wonโ€™t consider their open spaces for designation.

    Ten years will pass and a new cohort will make noises about development and loss of historic character…and how did it happen.

  99. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 26, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

    Thanks Dave. Going back to our earlier theater conversation in this thread, not to be confused with this . . . .

  100. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  September 26, 2017 @ 12:22 pm

    Exactly, Frank. I remember the S&H Green Stamp redemption retailer as well. As I recall, that was pre Sutton Place showroom.

  101. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 26, 2017 @ 1:58 pm

    S&H Green Stamps! I remember them well. My mother redeemed them for an electric can opener, among other things.

  102. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 26, 2017 @ 2:01 pm

    Ha, silverleaf! GREAT photo you linked to. Thanks!

    Charlie Chaplin had the same initials as Chris Christie, but the comparison ends there… ๐Ÿ™‚

  103. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 26, 2017 @ 2:08 pm

    Definitely meant as a compliment, Frank! And thank you for your very detailed comment!

    A shame there’s so much opposition to historic designation. Seems to work well in Glen Ridge, though GR is of course a much different town than Montclair.

    I understand some of the reasons to oppose historic designation. Property owners feel it limits changes they can make to their houses, developers can’t develop as much and thus lose some of their beloved profits, etc. But historic designation — among its other benefits — can certainly make a town look better and, heck, quite possibly improve the value of individual houses.

  104. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 26, 2017 @ 2:43 pm


    I know everyone likes to blame “the developers”, but they are a tiny part of the resistance. It is the property owners that fear they are conceding resale value. Ask any real estate agent here in town and they will say so to anyone considering it. So, it is homeowner’s profits. Let’s call it for what it is.

    I get it. it is the single largest investment for both commercial and residential property owners. The payoff is decades down the road. But, I have little sympathy for residents that trot out the historic charm of their neighborhood argument – several of which do have considerable quality historic resources – when faced with new development density that will impact them. Again, they are looking to protect their resale value, but want to use historic preservation as a politically correct way to object. Ask them if they are willing to support a historic designation and they disappear in to century old woodwork.

    So, yes, we can stick a fork in it.

  105. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 26, 2017 @ 2:46 pm

    PS: and the Business Improvement District is one of the biggest offenders. Ironic in a way.

  106. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 26, 2017 @ 3:08 pm

    I see what you’re saying, Frank. I haven’t studied it closely, as you obviously have, but I had thought being in a historic district might help the resale value of a house. Great neighborhood to live in and all that.

    But I guess one reason people buy a house is to then change it, “improve” it, maybe even tear it down and build something bigger. All of which one can’t do or is harder to do in a historic district — making it harder for a home seller to sell at max value. Still, many people do find historically designated Glen Ridge an attractive place to buy a home…

    Personally, I’d rather live in a historic district and eventually sell my (hypothetical) house for somewhat less $$.

  107. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 26, 2017 @ 4:26 pm

    I totally believe being in a historic district protects value, even increases it. Of course, if you buy in a HD, then there is no unknown downside. It is only the property owner that bought pre-HD that has an unknown depending on the specific house. I believe all will appreciate unless you bought a farmhouse. Not much risk there. Unfortunately, it is hard to compare neighborhoods for a large study that may quantify it. In short, I believe HDs float all boats in the harbor higher.

  108. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 26, 2017 @ 4:49 pm

    Thanks, Frank! You made several great points — including the difference between buying into a district that’s already HD vs. buying pre-HD in a district that becomes HD.

  109. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 26, 2017 @ 5:35 pm

    Maybe Valley & Bloom can get historical designation as “Most Unwanted Buildings of the 21st Century.”

  110. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 26, 2017 @ 5:47 pm

    If 3rd Warders believe in karma, then Valley & Bloom is it. The 3rd Ward Councilor led the decision to exclude the Farrell Building and the Sears store from historic protection…exactly where Valley & Bloom sits. It seems fair that the 3rd Ward get’s to own it decisions. Now the 4th Ward has their short with Lackawanna.

  111. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 26, 2017 @ 5:48 pm

    it = its


  112. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 26, 2017 @ 6:36 pm

    Yes, V&B was a debacle from start to finish. ๐Ÿ™ Unhappily driving or walking by it puts the “down” in “downtown.”

  113. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 26, 2017 @ 8:14 pm

    Yes. Totally!

    Just wait until the 3rd building tops out. And the V&B Parking Deck! Quite the gateway!

  114. POSTED BY daveastor  |  September 26, 2017 @ 8:32 pm

    The third building being The MC hotel, right? Way too tall. ๐Ÿ™

    And our new municipal slogan could be “Montclair: The Only Town With More Parking Decks Than Wards.”

    Yes, “Quite the gateway” — drolly put, Frank!

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