The Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan was approved with a 4-2 vote at the Montclair Township Council Meeting on Tuesday, October 10th. Residents both for and against the plan shared their perspectives on Montclair for over two hours before the council took its vote. The redevelopment plan entails revitalizing the plaza while meeting sustainable development standards, building affordable housing, and access to a local grocery store. Read more to learn about the details of the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment approved plan in Montclair.
Details of The Montclair Township Council Meeting
The decision to greenlight the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan comes after years of debate and public discourse. At Tuesday evening’s council meeting on October 10th, Montclair residents in favor of the plan highlighted the anticipated benefits of the plaza, emphasizing the need to address more local necessities and employment opportunities in the area. In contrast, Montclair residents opposing the proposal raised issues about traffic, size, building height, flooding, and the preservation of the town’s economic diversity. The full discussion can be watched here.
Details of the Approved Plan
Montclair’s Lackawanna Plaza property owner and developer is David Placek, a Montclair resident and managing partner of BDP Holdings, a New Jersey-based real estate investment company. With the plans’ approval, work will now begin on a site plan for the 8.2-acre property.
The township’s approved plan will bring a grocery store, employment opportunities, affordable housing, and environmentally-friendly development. The approved plan also emphasizes the design’s role in preserving the Lackawanna train terminal as it remains a central aspect of Montclair’s history.
Montclair will welcome five new buildings to the area, ranging from five to six stories, and reaching heights of 60 to 85 feet above street level. The project must adhere to the township’s mandate that 20% of the 300 units meet state and local affordable housing standards.
The provision of a new supermarket was another key driving force behind the approved plan. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (“NJEDA”) identified the Lackawanna Plaza Area as part of a census tract group included in the 50 food desert communities in the state. Councilor David Cummings announced at the council meeting that Amazon Fresh is under consideration to replace the long-gone Pathmark but no formal actions have been taken on that yet.
The Montclair Environmental Commission (MEC) has voiced support for the plan in a statement, as long as the redevelopment plan is committed to the sustainable objectives outlined in the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan. Given the strong emphasis on sustainability in this project, the recommended strategy is to promote economic advantages through eco-friendly site-design, incorporating green solutions for stormwater management, and repurposing existing pavement.
Among the approved plan’s key initiatives is the incorporation of stormwater regulations from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, aimed at mitigating challenges posed by severe weather events. Additionally, the plan seeks to reduce reliance on vehicle travel by maximizing the town’s transportation resources and encouraging walking and bicycling. Finally, the approved proposal underscores the adoption of both passive and active green building technologies, and ensures the redevelopment supports the utilities serving the area.
History of Lackawanna
Before Lackawanna became a plaza, it was once home to the Lackawanna train terminal in Montclair. It embraced a new identity after its final run in the 1980s, transforming into a shopping mall known as today’s Lackawanna Plaza. This makeover brought not only retail and office space, but also a resource for grocery shopping in Montclair.
At the time, the Pinnacle Companies partnered with the Hampshire Companies to introduce the first set of Lackawanna Plaza developments within the area. Yet, the path to realization was far from straightforward. It wasn’t until 2019 that the Montclair Planning Board passed the proposal. That plan was never launched due to a lawsuit to stop the development and threats of destroying significant historical architecture and station platforms, a decision met with strong resistance from Montclair residents.
In recent times, the mall has been designated as “in need of development” by a prior council ordinance since 2015, and is currently somewhat of a ghost town, marred by a history of multiple developers attempting to breathe fresh life into the terminal. With the October 10th approval of the redevelopment plan, the Lackawanna Plaza will enter into a new chapter.
While a major hurdle has now been overcome, there will be more hearings as the project shapes up. Continue to browse the town’s website, full development plan, and The Montclair Girl for ongoing updates and insights into the progress of this redevelopment plan.