Home Essex County What’s Really Going On at Lackawanna Plaza in Montclair?

What’s Really Going On at Lackawanna Plaza in Montclair?

by Morgan Rupinski
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The Lackawanna Train Terminal opened its doors in Montclair back in 1913. 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.

lackawanna station 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.

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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 Fall of 2018 according to the website.

the mc hotel montclair

(Photo credit: The MC Hotel)

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.

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What’s Next

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.

“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. 

pineapple express barbeque

According to Montclair Local News, Placek stated that a timeline on completion cannot yet be provided until the Township Council approves a redevelopment plan.

At this time, Placek cannot comment on what grocery store will occupy the space due to a nondisclosure agreement.

We’re looking forward to seeing what becomes of the historical Lackawanna Plaza. Stay tuned for more about the development plans. Until then, be sure to check out the upcoming events happening at Lackawanna Plaza, such as The Montclair Jazz Festival.

Stay in the know with @themontclairgirl on Instagram here and TikTok here.

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