The redevelopment of the Western Gateway region in Montclair isn’t done yet. Pinnacle developer Brian Stolar is planning a new building on the site of Ferrara’s Auto Body, between Valley & Bloom and the in-progress MC Hotel. The new project involves a four-story, mixed-use structure with ground-floor retail and three floors of one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and studio apartments. Stolar and his attorney Tom Trautner showed plans for the building along Orange Road to the Montclair Development Review Committee (DRC) at its October 4 meeting.
The building, to be called MC Residences, would provide 46 units in total, with 14 large apartments for empty-nesters who want to age in place and need or want the extra room. A food hall in the style of the markets in Manhattan would take up the retail spaces and cater to the neighborhood; Stolar anticipates pedestrians from the surrounding blocks as customers. The design mirrors the architecture of the hotel and the Valley & Bloom buildings, but architect Jack Raker, who presented the designs to the DRC, noted the diverse materials of the façade, such as brick and metal, and the multiple cornices in an effort to break up the bulk. The MC Residences building also has a side entrance on Centroverde Drive with a façade designed to look as presentable to that narrow side street as the one facing Orange Road does.
Planning Board member Martin Schwartz stressed the importance of seeing how the building fits in with its neighbors, given its added bulk. He said it obviously has such a perspective in relation to the hotel, but he was unsure of how it would relate to the parking deck on the opposite side of Centroverde Drive. Stolar and Raker said the proposed building is 52 feet – three feet shorter than the garage – and the hotel is on a zero lot line, 15 feet ahead of the MC Residences building’s lot line as proposed. The MC Residences building is set back another 15 feet beyond the lot line, making it set back 30 feet from Orange Road. The result is a pedestrian plaza to complement the food hall. Schwartz said more renderings need to be provided to show the relation of the MC Residences building from both north and south.
The front of the building would also have a drop-off lane for up to four cars. The design was based on the maximum lane size that the township would allow, but it could be made smaller. Parking would be provided on the ground-floor level, with up to 73 parking stalls. A total of 95 spaces would be needed, which the developer would provide through 78 spaces generated by 63 spaces in stackers, three handicapped spaces, and three Zipcars, with remaining parking in the Orange Road deck. Additional information will be provided to the Planning Board when the application comes up for a hearing.
The project would possibly require numerous variances regarding density, and setbacks. Schwartz asked what the benefit would be to providing a dwelling density of, based on the calculations of Planning Director Janice Talley, 78 units per acre (Stolar calculated a 72-unit-per-acre density for the project and reducing the side-yard setback from 22 feet to two feet). Stolar and Trautner insisted that those requirements apply to a building the size of MC Residences that is residential only, whereas the redevelopment plan, based on their understanding of it, does not require any of those stipulations to mixed-use buildings. Director Talley and other members of the DRC insisted otherwise, saying there was no intent to exempt mixed-use buildings from the stipulations. Director Talley told Baristanet that more conversations will be needed to determine whether Stolar does in fact need variances for his project, and Zoning Board of Adjustment Chair William Harrison said it would be wise for Stolar to look into exactly what the requirements are before proceeding, warning him not to let it “blow up.”
Schwartz asked if Stolar had in fact benefited from modifications that upped the uses and expanding building heights from the council via amendments to the redevelopment plan when he got approval for the hotel. Stolar said there was never an amendment to increase the size of anything; the only amendment he remembered was to allow a hotel within one hundred feet of Bloomfield Avenue. Schwartz said there were amendments made according to his recollections – the plan, he and Director Talley agreed, was amended six times – and he said he was sure that the council would make amendments to the plan again. Stolar conceded that this point was fair.
The MC Residences project is an area in need of rehabilitation, not an area in need redevelopment, which means that the township is precluded from entering into a payment in lieu of taxes agreement but the project still has to conform to the redevelopment plan. This meeting was strictly for purposes of guidance; the project is slated for a full hearing from the Planning Board, which will likely happen once the Lackawanna Plaza hearings are concluded and a vote on that separate project is taken.
The DRC did have a hearing on a plan for the South End Gardens senior apartments – coincidentally, also on Orange Road. Architect Paul Sionas showed plans for a circular path around the 100-unit complex, to go in a wooded area of the property. The path would be four feet wide and include bollard lighting. Sionas proposed a six-foot wooden fence to run along the path to give the residents a sense of security but this would involve turning much of the wooden area between the path and the outer edges of the property, separated from the adjacent properties by a chain-link fence, into a no man’s land. Sionas agreed to move the fence farther back from the path and also revisit a trash enclosure on the property. The DRC approved the project, 5-0, with those two conditions.
The DRC also memorialized the application for the Faubourg restaurant on Bloomfield Avenue.