Letter to the Editor: Redevelopment and Preservation

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Montclair is a triumphal legacy of Architecture and Design, fittingly called “the finest suburban town in the United States… the splendid mountainside which has inspired the architect and the landscape artist to noble effort and glorious achievement.” (Nolan, 1909)

The patrimony of historic buildings, within view of the NYC skyline, is what gives Montclair its “signature” sense of place. The well- established aesthetic beauty and the culturally rich and diverse community is what characterizes Montclair’s physical and cultural landscape.

Montclair is characterized by its fine old buildings, its long-standing neighborhoods and its unique and diverse social fabric. Not enough importance is being given to preserving the towns fine old buildings and the original richly diverse neighborhoods that make Montclair what it is. The decision makers of redevelopment have a duty in protecting Montclair’s historic character because it is a principal source of attraction and maintains the real estate values and protects property owner’s investments in residential neighborhoods.

Although several landmarks have been lost, like the Marlboro Inn and the African American YMCA, many of Montclair’s significant landmark structures have been preserved and recycled into today’s everyday life through creative repurposing. “Repurposing” is the adaptive reuse of structures that have outlived their original function, while maintaining their desirable historic character. Recycling older buildings is also a way to preserve the social fabric of existing neighborhoods and can be a means to create affordable housing.

Montclair has a diverse, rich and unique social fabric that must be maintained to order to preserve the character as well. The Lackawanna Station is a valuable Fourth Ward Landmark that must not be lost to redevelopment. Industry experts have proven that the existing Train station 59,000 Sq Ft Shed structure could function exceptionally well as a Food Market/Grocery. Preserving the valuable train station landmark is important to preserve and enhance the value of Montclair Center as well as the entire town.

The patrimony of historic buildings, is one principal contributor to what gives Montclair its attractive trademark. Intelligent Preservation maintains the town’s character and enhances its standards of quality and contributes to its sense of “place.” Preserving the landmarks, to some, could be considered a sentimental exercise, but its significance in today’s world is far more substantial and is directly reflected in tangible economic impact as well as critical intangible quality of life.

With the current local trends of redevelopment, our standards of quality of the township and its original beauty are sadly disappearing. All you have to do is look down Bloomfield Avenue to see the negative aesthetic changes.

Along with lost aesthetic beauty is the consequence of lost economic opportunity for Montclair to continue to prosper and grow in a positive direction.

— Frank Gerard Godlewski, Essex Fells

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