The Lackawanna Train Terminal opened its doors in Montclair back in 1913. Now, a plan to redevelop Lackawanna Plaza has officially been introduced by the town of Montclair. The terminal was designed by architect William Hull Botsford, who died in the sinking of the Titanic. The terminal established Montclair as a commuter suburb of New York City as part of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad. The terminal’s opening was a pivotal moment in the history of Montclair Township and plays a huge role in the rail transit residents have access to today. Read on to learn more about this historical landmark right in Montclair.
Life After Rail
After its final run in the 1980s, The Lackawanna Train Terminal took on a new purpose as an enclosed shopping mall, providing the southeast end of Montclair with retail, office space, and, of course — groceries.
Known today in Montclair as Lackawanna Plaza, the approximately eight-acre property is currently a ghost town of sorts, with a history of developers taking a shot at updating the terminal.
Residents of the southeast end of Montclair have been left without local access to groceries since Pathmark left the space back in 2015 due to company bankruptcy. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority placed part of Montclair on a list of NJ communities that are designated a food desert. Placing a grocery store back into Lackawanna Plaza has been of utmost importance to the township and developers.
Road to Redevelopment
The Pinnacle Companies, whose previous developments include the MC Hotel, The Siena, and The Wellmont redevelopment, and its joint venture partner, The Hampshire Companies, were the first recent firms to introduce Lackawanna Plaza development plans to the township. The plan included 154 residential units, a medical office, retail space, space for car-share programs, and a 50,000-square-foot food store and was expected to be completed in the fall of 2018 according to the website.
However, it wasn’t until 2019 that the Montclair Planning Board approved the proposal from Pinnacle and Hampshire. The proposal included the demolition of significant portions of the historical architecture and station platforms. This was met with pushback from Montclair residents who ended up suing the board in April 2019. The proposed development did not move forward.
In February of 2021, BDP Holdings, a New Jersey-based real estate investment company, acquired Lackawanna Plaza from Pinnacle and Hampshire.
David Placek, managing partner at BDP Holdings and Montclair resident himself, said in a press release, “I understand both the historical and current significance of Lackawanna Plaza for the community. BDP is very excited to acquire this extraordinary property, and we look forward to realizing its full potential, which includes bringing a grocery store back to the neighborhood. It’s an incredible opportunity for us to bring a fresh vision to the property, while still paying homage to the history of Lackawanna Terminal.”
A community meeting hosted by Montclair Fourth Ward Councilman, David Cummings, was held on March 16th, 2022 at the Charles H. Bullock School. The agenda included a presentation from Placek providing an update on the Lackawanna Plaza development.
Another meeting was held on December 6th, where the Lackawanna Redevelopment plan was formally introduced and voted on — the council voted 6-0-1, with one abstention. The plans will now go to the town’s planning board as well as the Historic Preservation Commission for review.
Montclair Councilman Peter Yacobellis noted in an email sent out on Wednesday, December 7th that “Additionally, the Council will trigger additional traffic and circulation studies for the area so that we can understand the impacts of this plan and how to mitigate those impacts depending on how this progresses.”
“I think it’s important that we look at it as an opportunity,” Councilman Cummings told The Montclair Girl. “It’s a priority to get Lackawanna Plaza developed because if we do, and it’s done well, it could be a positive impact on the entire township.”
When asked about the businesses that are currently located in Lackawanna Plaza, Cummings stated that in his understanding, Popeyes will remain, and he believes Pineapple Express Barbeque, a beer garden and barbeque restaurant recently opened in 2021, will also look to remain there as well.
At this time, Placek cannot comment on what grocery store will occupy the space due to a nondisclosure agreement.