Montclair’s Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment has been stalled after Montclair’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) expressed concerns in April over the removal of the “train sheds” as part of the redevelopment. The structures had been incorporated into an atrium in the 1980s when Lackawanna Station was turned into an indoor shopping center with an attached Pathmark supermarket.
Meanwhile, Montclair’s 4th Ward has been without a supermarket since November 2015 when Pathmark closed its doors. Montclair resident William Scott spoke to this at a May Montclair Planning Board meeting, voicing concerns about the delay of the redevelopment, stating that the historic value of the train shed should take a back seat to economic development for the Fourth Ward, and that a working supermarket and new housing with affordable set-asides to be built there were long overdue.
Historic Preservation Commission members Kathleen Bennett and David Greenbaum reiterated the need to strike a balance between the need for a supermarket in the Fourth Ward at a May Montclair Council meeting where the council voted to move the project along, recommending that the Planning Board “consider it [“it” being the Lackawanna project] favorably and with dispatch.”
This Monday (July 23, 7:30 p.m.) Montclair Planning Board will be discussing Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment, after discussion was postponed from the June 18 meeting. The following reports have been posted on the Township’s website, regarding the site’s historical significance and possible reuse/re-purposing of the existing structures, particularly the train sheds.
- A 60-page report from Barton Ross, the Planning Board’s architectural consultant, Architecture_BRPA Report_7-11-18.
- A supermarket design report from Mehmert Store Services: Supermarket Design_Mehmert Report _ June 2018, detailing how other communities have adapted/re-used similar structures.
- An 11-page report from Dr. Steven M. Bedford, an architectural historian from Louis Berger, retained by Pinnacle, the developer – Architectural Historian Report_7_13_18 (1) – refuting points in Barton’s 60-page report, specifically stating that Lackawanna Plaza does not, nor did it ever, have Lincoln Bush Train Sheds. Bedford says what Lackawanna Station does have is platform canopies, something Bedford describes as “ordinary.”
Bedford goes on to say that the “train platforms have lost their integrity and the resulting conclusion is that demolition of the interior mall is not inconsistent with historic preservation principals or requirements.” The report disagrees with the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission’s recommendation that the proposed demolition of the interior mall is inconsistent with Section 347-137(D) of the Montclair Code.
In his report, Ross states that the major issue with the proposed design continues to be the elimination of about 2/3 of the length of the original 1913 metal train sheds. “Because the current proposal still calls for the demolition of the historic train sheds, does not identify or guarantee a “supermarket” anchor tenant, provides too much unmitigated, pedestrian un-friendly surface parking and other inconsistencies with the Township of Montclair’s Master Plan, we do not recommend approval of the application at this time. However, if the applicants take the feedback into account, certain modifications to their plan should bring the proposed project more effectively into consistency with the town’s Master Plan.”
Ross has stated at a previous Montclair Planning Board meeting that while the design could keep the supermarket and some of the train shed for an urban-style market or seating area or maintain the atrium as it is, he said his favorite idea was to leave the train shed columns in place and let motorists park cars beneath them.
The Memmert report suggests either considering a store within the train shed structure or considering the former use as a covered parking garage for trains to a modern use as a parking garage for cars.
Ross would not comment on Bedford’s report other than to say that the report “does not affect any of our conclusions or recommendations for the project.”